LegalHealth – America’s biggest Medical Legal Partnership

With partnerships at 17 sites, including 15 hospitals, LegalHealth New York is undoubtedly America’s biggest MLP.

LegalHealth Director Randye Rekin (L) with staff from the Beth Israel Hospital and LegalHealth at a Grand Round presentation to health staff.

Headed by the indefatigable Randye Retkin, LegalHealth is a division the New York Legal Assistance Group , a not-for-profit civil-law focussed service. Unconstrained by the limitations imposed on many civil-law services in the US as a consequence of funding through the Legal Services Corporation (such as prohibitions on suing the government, undertaking class-actions or representing undocumented clients) LegalHealth is free to take on a wide scope of matters covering many cohort’s throughout the city.

Importantly, New York State lays claim to the first legislation in the country to promote MLPs – due in no small part to the active lobbying by LegalHealth.

“The Health-Related Legal Services Programs Law promotes Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) and will establish standards for their implementation. The law defines “health-related legal services programs” as one which “provide[s] on site legal services without charge to assist…income eligible patients and their families to resolve legal matters or needs that have an impact on patient health or are created or aggravated by a patient’s health.” The new legislation paves the way for the stabilization and expansion of these services throughout New York.”1

While LegalHealth may not have been profiled in the 2001 article in the New York Times Boston Medical Center turns to Lawyers for a Cure it can certainly claim credit for building the profile, with a recently acclaimed result From Brother to Brother, a Kidney, and a Life. This article not only offers a unique insight into MLP practice, it shows how the issues of immigration and health care can often collide (and in extraordinary circumstances be overcome) in the US.

LegalHealth enjoys an amazing reputation and could be profiled here on any one of its many outstanding attributes. Just one is its significant and impressive record on legal assistance services to cancer patients, which it has prioritised since 2002.

In 2010, LegalHealth served over 900 clients with cancer… [including]… services to help:

  • Secure government benefits
  • Solve insurance disputes
  • Plan ahead (e.g., will, healthcare proxy, power of attorney and guardianship)
  • Negotiate workplace accommodations
  • Handle immigration matters
  • Address credit issues
  • Fix housing problems.

While LegalHealth’s output within the oncology context is remarkable, their interest in evaluation and their academic profile are equally impressive. The following articles will prove a useful resource for Australian services interested in following in the LegalHealth’s footsteps:

Fleishman, S. B., MD, Retkin, R., Esq., Brandfield, J., Esq., & Braun, V. “The Attorney as the Newest Member of the Cancer Treatment Team. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 24 (13), 2123-2125. 2006.

Impact of Legal Interventions on Cancer Survivors, Randye Retkin, Esq., Julie Brandfield, Esq. and Cathy Bacich, January 2007.

Peter Noble

1. New York Legal Assistance Group: LegalHealth, Director’s Message, http://www.legalhealth.org/, accessed 23 April 2012.

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