A Medical Legal Partnership to Benefit Cancer Patients

By Shawn Kravich

Shawn Kravich graduated from the University of Southern California, with B.A.s in Art History, Political Science, and International Relations, and earned his J.D. from UCLA School of Law, with specializations in Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies. Mr. Kravich comes to the Cancer Legal Resource Center from a position at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in Washington, D.C., where he served as this year’s 1772 Law and Policy Fellow. Shawn Kravich is a member of the California, Connecticut, and New York state bars.

Imagine going to an oncologist for treatment but coming out with answers about what types of health insurance options you have or what wage replacement programs you might be eligible for while you’re unable to work.  Most health care professionals don’t know how to answer these questions, even though they are often in the best position to provide the information directly to cancer patients who need access to it.

In fact, both the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and the American Bar Association encourage physicians and attorneys to develop and work within medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) and support the education of patients, advocates, and health care providers about legal issues that can affect patient health.  This type of union between law and medicine is precisely what the Cancer Legal Resource Center strives to provide.

From March 23rd to March 25th, I represented the CLRC at the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership’s annual conference, in Baltimore, MD.  While the conference focused primarily on “conventional” MLPs—which are joint programs between legal aid organizations and local health care facilities—the CLRC has emerged to meet the same important needs of patients, but in a slightly different way.

Whereas most MLPs focus on providing direct legal assistance in a select number of issue areas, the CLRC provides information and resources on a broad range of cancer-related legal issues.  By training health care professionals and attorneys, and by focusing on education and information instead of litigation, the CLRC is able to help people coping with cancer to figure out the best options for themselves when faced with a cancer-related legal issue.  By knowing about legal options and making informed decisions early on, cancer patients can focus their energy on survivorship.

The CLRC can assist more “conventional” MLPs, too.  Sometimes patients calling the CLRC’s national Telephone Assistance Line live near MLPs, but don’t know what they are, or how they can help.  In cases like these, the CLRC can refer clients to MLPs to get direct legal assistance on issues that impact their health.  Also, because MLPs represent clients directly, they are unable to cover legal topics in every field of law that is related to a particular diagnosis.  For example, even if an MLP can help a cancer patient gain access to Medicaid or Social Security Disability Insurance, they might not have expertise in the legal issues that arise from being an employee with cancer, or during the estate planning process.  When a MLP needs additional support, attorneys, health care providers, or even patients themselves can call the CLRC’s national Telephone Assistance Line, at 866-THE-CLRC (866-843-2572), to get information and resources for all types of cancer-related legal issues.   In addition, anyone can access a number of our educational resources on our website at http://www.CancerLegalResourceCenter.org—including the latest edition of The HCP Manual: A Legal Resource Guide for Oncology Health Care Professionals.

By understanding the important link between law and medicine, the CLRC is helping change the lives of cancer patients: to improve legal and health outcomes at the same time!

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