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Legal Assistance Helps Patients Focus on Medical Care

It's not unusual for patients to avoid or cancel medical care for serious illnesses due to legal concerns, lack of medical insurance or disability.

Kerry Rodabaugh, MD, gynecologic oncologist, used to see it happen frequently. She has been seeing fewer of those cases, however, due to a medical legal partnership Nebraska Medicine has developed with Legal Aid of Nebraska and Iowa Legal Aid. This service provides free legal services to patients at Nebraska Medicine so they can focus on their medical care and getting well rather than their legal issues.

Kerry Rodabaugh, MD
Kerry Rodabaugh, MD

The service is currently being provided to oncology, solid organ transplants and perinatal patients. Dr. Rodabaugh says the hospital hopes to expand the service in the near future to cover all patients in Nebraska Medicine system.

"Our attorneys can help patients and their families with advanced directives, wills, estates, getting health insurance, disability or any other type of legal issue that might be interfering with a patient's ability to get treatment for their illness," says Dr. Rodabaugh.

There are several recent examples. A patient cancelled breast cancer surgery because she had been evicted from her apartment, was low on funds and didn't have anywhere to stay postoperatively during her recovery. The attorney was able to get her eviction reversed and attain health insurance for her to cover her medical expenses. This allowed her to refocus her attention on her medical issues and undergo the necessary surgery.

In another case, a left ventricular assist device patient needed to be put on a heart transplant list very quickly, but there was a requirement where the patient had to be on disability prior to being placed on the transplant list. The attorney from the medical-legal partnership was able to expedite the decision from the disability office to grant disability to the patient as well as assist with obtaining health insurance. As a result of this particular case, national policy has now been changed and all patients on left ventricular assist devices will automatically be considered disabled, removing this hurdle for future patients.

"Providing this service greatly improves a patient's overall quality of care as the patient becomes more compliant in keeping up with his/her recommended treatments and it allows the patient to focus on his or her health," says Dr. Rodabaugh. "If you can remove other stresses from their lives, they'll have more energy and resources to apply to the stresses of fighting a major illness."

To learn more, make a referral or connect with a member of Dr. Rodabaugh's team call 877-647-7497.