Accessing quality health care has increasingly become a challenge, especially for vulnerable populations not familiar with the health coverage they have. A substantial number of the poor, disabled, and elderly have health insurance but too often are denied a medically necessary service (for example, medication, examination, and equipment). Changing government regulations, complex coverage policies, and lack of adequate legal representation have all resulted in an increasing number of people denied healthcare benefits.
The Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PHLP), headquartered in Philadelphia but with offices in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, works to secure health rights. PHLP is especially attentive to vulnerable groups who are eligible for (or already rely on) Medicaid. Its unique model of combining free legal representation with a telephone-based delivery system enables it to achieve statewide coverage and overcome the financial and mobility constraints of the vulnerable groups that it seeks to serve. PHLP is also increasingly working in partnership with national, state, and local organizations, policymakers, and foundations to inform policies that guide Pennsylvania’s health system and highlight health care as a social justice issue. PHLP’s statewide scale, targeted outreach, innovative model of telephone-based service delivery, and impact on policy-making make it a one-of-its-kind organization in Pennsylvania that is focused on the issue of healthcare coverage and service denials to vulnerable groups in the state. Its efforts are shaped by an overarching goal: the purpose of the healthcare system must be to continuously reduce the impact and burden of illness, injury, and disability, and to improve the health and functioning of the people of Pennsylvania, especially the vulnerable groups, by ensuring that they receive the coverage and services they are eligible for.
PHLP’s counsel and actions have ensured a better quality of life for those faced with service denials, at a lower cost to society. Operated at an annual cost of $1 million, PHLP’s Helpline creates more than $5 million in economic value annually, thereby delivering a social return on investment of more than 400%. Additionally, access to timely, quality health care enables clients to enjoy a superior quality of life and be more productive members of society. Support for PHLP’s Helpline comes from the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and foundations and individual donations who support their overall mission.
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