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Before coming to law school, Gabriel Ravel ’09 volunteered at a health clinic in rural Washington State. Over the course of a year, Ravel wore a myriad of hats, from interpreting Spanish to taking vital signs. It was a harrowing experience. Ravel watched firsthand as patients--most of whom were migrant workers without access to care--died from treatable illnesses.
The year in Washington changed his life forever.
After law school, the Bay Area native already knew that he wanted to use his JD to help those who struggled to afford health care.
Last year, Ravel got his wish.
He is now the staff counsel for the California Health Benefit Exchange, spending his days working on behalf of four million people in the state.
“I’m basically doing my dream job right now,” says Ravel.
“I’m able to work towards helping people get health care when so many people in the state don’t have access to it.”
The California Health Benefit Exchange is an entity within the state government which has multiple goals, including improving healthcare quality and increasing the amount of insured citizens. In his role as staff counsel, Ravel says he is working with the “bread and butter” of state government, which means dealing with a variety of tasks, from working on contracts and regulations to helping policy makers figure out legal issues.
Having the chance to work for the benefit of others, especially in the healthcare field, was always Ravel’s aim out of law school. But he was faced with an issue. How could he pursue a career in the public sector, yet still pay off school and make ends meet?
Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for the solution.
Ravel is a participant of Harvard’s Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), which is aimed to assuage the high cost of education for those individuals who choose careers in public service or low-paying private sector legal work. In short, LIPP participants pay a limited portion of their yearly income towards what they owe in annual loan payments. The LIPP program then provides funding to cover the remaining balance of their eligible payments.
If they meet the debt and income--as well as job--requirements, any graduate can apply for LIPP assistance.
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without LIPP,” says Ravel.
“Usually I would have to go into private practice after finishing school to pay everything off. The LIPP program has allowed me to do what I really want to do. I think it’s a very important program for schools to have. It really allows people to help make a difference.”
Peter Lee, the Executive Director of the California Health Benefit Exchange, says that Ravel brings “thoughtful judgment” to the workplace, whether he’s drafting opinions or interpreting regulations.
In Lee’s eyes, a program like LIPP not only has value to individuals like Ravel. It is invaluable to millions.
“Programs like LIPP are vital,” says Lee.
“Gabriel could be making far more money in private practice. But instead he’s working towards helping people get the care they need and get it sooner. There are four million people in California that he’s helping right now.”
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