On November 19, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Build Back Better Act (page 1249) with historic, dedicated funding that would support the implementation of medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) that serve the unique needs of older, vulnerable Americans (NCMLP, Fact Sheet, 2020) nationwide. As the infrastructure bill faces a tough battle in the Senate, all funding for MLPs has been stripped.
With little time to act, members of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership; Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy; UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science, and Health Policy; and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association have composed a letter urging Senate leadership to reconsider this action.
The letter begins with a quote by Senator Ron Wyden: “COVID-19 has laid bare the risks of abuse, neglect, and exploitation faced by vulnerable seniors.” We know that MLPs actively combat these vulnerabilities and the group cites a successful partnership program, where “a team at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System saw an almost 40% reduction in inpatients with prolonged hospitalizations over a six-month period.”
“We hope to see a restoration of the language and resources that are essential to our nation’s seniors. Health and equity champions in Congress recognized such resources are essential to removing the barriers that our nation’s seniors face in exercising their rights and ensuring their health,” said Bethany Hamilton, JD, Co-Director of the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. Hamilton continued, “Removing Section 2047 from the BBBA signals to our nation’s seniors that, at best, we accept the status quo; at worst, we are complicit in their neglect. Robust and long-term investments in medical-legal partnerships will prevent and eliminate the risks faced by our seniors. We know this. Let’s get it done.”
Read the letter HERE and, if you would like to contact your Senators to share your thoughts, concerns, or stories about how critically important Section 2047 of the Build Back Better Act was in ensuring access to legal services for the millions of socially vulnerable older adults nationwide, you can find their contact information at democracy.io or congress.gov/members/find-your-member. You can also reach out to your Representatives to thank them for recognizing the important work of MLPs and supporting increased access to legal services for our seniors and individuals with disabilities.