National Center receives $2 million grant to study impact of legal interventions on health care

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Research Could Help Health Care Organizations Better Address Social Factors Affecting Health and Health Care Use

The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership (NCMLP) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health today announced receiving a nearly $2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the benefits of legal interventions on patients and health care organizations.

The grant was awarded to two investigators from the Department of Health Policy and Management: Ellen Lawton, JD, Lead Research Scientist, and Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM, Associate Professor. The research team also includes Marsha Regenstein, PhD, a Professor in the department.

“Three-hundred hospitals and health centers across the United States embed lawyers as part of the health care team to help treat complex social factors such as unlawful evictions and poor housing conditions, improper insurance denials, and domestic violence” said Lawton. “While there is significant anecdotal evidence to show these medical-legal partnerships (MLP) have a positive impact on patients and patient care, this grant allows us to look systemically at the operations and outcomes of these partnerships, and to understand how best to integrate these services into health care settings.”

The grant supports NCMLP’s work with five health care organizations that currently have medical-legal partnerships to: (1) measure the financial and social impact of MLP services on patients, examining factors such as increased insurance benefits and more stable housing; (2) describe the experiences and attitudes of patients and health care providers who interact with MLP to determine how these services affect care delivery; and (3) identify best practices in the operations of medical-legal partnerships in hospital and health center settings.

“As hospitals and health centers increasingly move toward a value-based care model, these findings will help health care organizations better understand the impact that treating complex social factors have on the broader delivery of health care” said Regenstein. “It will help health care organizations make more targeted, effective investments in partnerships.”

The grant also supports the development of an issue brief series examining ways to finance these legal and MLP interventions as part of health care, specifically examining community benefit, population health management, and managed care reimbursement strategies.