News & Commentary

Hospitals Lawyer Up To Boost Care Teams

The shift to value-based health care encourages hospitals to add lawyers to treatment teams, and often they are on hand to help patients at no additional cost.

Ellen Lawton, the codirector of the National Center for Medical–Legal Partnership at George Washington University, told Kaiser Health News that about 300 health care systems, children’s hospitals, and federally qualified health centers have placed lawyers on their health care teams. They help patients overcome myriad practical problems associated with illness and treatment.

“Lawyers might file for an order of protection from a violent spouse, help appeal an insurance claim denial or get involved in child custody, guardianship, or power of attorney issues,” Kaiser reports.

The Kaiser article, published June 6, begins anecdotally with a story about Christine Crawford, a patient at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.

She plans to have gender transition surgery later this year. The attorney on the care team helped Crawford with her name-change petition, but it didn’t stop there. She also notified Crawford’s former spouse and published the name change in the newspaper.

Lawyers on care teams can be particularly helpful when hospitals have to deal with poorer populations. Housing is often a problem for patients at Care Connections at Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine in Lancaster, Pa., and lawyers can help fight eviction or track down federal housing subsidies.

Jeffrey Martin, MD, is the managing physician for the program. He tells Kaiser: “It’s hard to use inhalers and take 16 other medications if you’re living in the back of a car or on someone’s couch.”

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