Public Benefits Task Force

Enroll in Health Coverage at HealthConnectNow on March 1 at the B'More Healthy Expo

Please pass along this information froim Health Care Access Maryland to clients, friends and family:

Come to the HealthConnectNow! Enrollment Event from 10 am – 5 pm on March 1st at the B’More Healthy Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center. HCAM’s Certified Navigators will be on hand to answer your questions and help you enroll. Visit us on Level 300!

Click here for the event flyer.


HealthConnectNow! Enrollment events will be scheduled across the state throughout March - check out the event list at for more dates and locations. Remember, open enrollment for Maryland Health Connection ends March 31!

(Sorry for the duplicate postings).

New Consumer Facts Sheets Regarding Financial Exploitation

From the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care:

New Consumer Facts Sheets Available!

How to Prevent, Detect and Report Financial Exploitation in Long-Term Care Facilities

Developed in part through a grant from the Administration on Aging for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), these new consumer fact sheets discuss the prevention, detection and reporting of financial exploitation in assisted living and nursing homes. There are separate fact sheets for residents in assisted living and nursing homes and their family members.

The consumer fact sheets provide an overview of residents’ rights and facility responsibilities related to resident finances, tips for protecting themselves and how to report incidents of financial abuse. The fact sheets for family and friends of residents also review residents’ rights and facility responsibilities, highlight warning signs and how to report incidents of financial exploitation.

Share these fact sheets with residents, family members, long-term care facility staff and others interested in preventing and responding to financial exploitation.

Assisted Living Facilities
Consumer Fact Sheet: How to Prevent, Detect and Report Financial Exploitation in Assisted Living Facilities
Protecting Your Loved One: How to Prevent, Detect and Report Financial Exploitation in Assisted Living Facilities

Nursing Homes
Consumer Fact Sheet: How to Prevent, Detect and Report Financial Exploitation in Nursing Homes
Protecting Your Loved One: How to Prevent, Detect and Report Financial Exploitation in Nursing Homes

For more information regarding financial exploitation in long-term care facilities, visit the Consumer Voice website and the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) website.

Save the Date: National Aging and Law Conference, Oct. 16-17, 2014

The 2014 National Aging and Law Conference will be sponsored by the American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging. It replaces the conference that was previously sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. NALC 2014 will be held at the Brickfield Center in the AARP headquarters building in Washington, DC.

The conference will have a track specifically for legal services advocates and an agenda that will minimize the impact of travel costs. A Call for Speaker Proposals can be found on the conference's Facebook account.

Submission deadline: March 15, 2014.

Submit proposals by email to


Extension of interpreters for court-ordered services

The Judiciary recently issued a policy to expand interpretation services to court-ordered services and programs, including:

-- Mediation

-- Court evaluations

-- Court-appointed attorneys

-- Self-Help Centers

and many more.

The attached list is intended to be inclusive. Please contact the Administrative Office of the Courts Program Services Unit at (410) 260-1291 for more information about coverage of particular services.

Feel free to bring to the attention of the Language Access Task Force if you think an interpreter should be appointed for a particular service, but a court refuses to assign one.

MD Judiciary's Language Access Plan

Here is the plan issued by the Maryland Judiciary as to their efforts to maintain and increase accessibility for limited English proficient clients in the courts.

Highlights include:

-- Plans to improve data collection re: LEP participation in the courts

-- Expand interpretation services to court-ordered services and programs

-- Hiring court-employed interpreters in several courts, including AA County, B. County and B. City, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's County

-- Improving the numbers of translated forms available on the courts' websites



MD Judiciary's Language Access Plan.pdf1.04 MB

Important Information: Health Coverage Options for January 1st


From Maryland Health Connection:

If you attempted to enroll in health coverage through Maryland Health Connection for January 1, 2014 effective date, but were unable because you experienced technical challenges, you will now be able to enroll in a private plan of your choice with coverage retroactive to January 1st.

To find out if you are eligible and your next steps, you must contact our dedicated hotline at 1-800-396-1961 prior to 5:00pm EST, Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

The customer service representative will take your information and, after we research the specifics of your case, someone will call you to discuss your enrollment.

Deadlines for this program are as follows:
• To REGISTER for the program:
January 21st, prior to 5pm EST
• To PAY January and February premiums:
February 15th
• To ASK questions or to enroll:
Call the dedicated Consumer Support Center at 1-800-396-1961

Public Benefits Task Force

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:00am - 1:00pm

If you are a member of the Task Force, find the GoToMeeting information at:

Be sure to sign in to see the page.

Location Name: 
MD Legal Aid
500 East Lexington
Pauline Wenrich and Michelle Salomon
Phone: and
MD Legal Aid

Affordable Care Act FAQs

From HHS:

On January 9, 2014, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released its Frequently Asked Questions on the Affordable Care Act. These FAQs are intended to assist the public in understanding the law so they can benefit from it as intended.

The FAQs address:

· Coverage of Preventive Services

· Limitations on Cost-Sharing under the Affordable Care Act – Maximum Out of Pocket costs

· Expatriate Health Plans

· Wellness Programs

· Fixed Indemnity Insurance – Excepted Benefits

· The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008

The tri-department FAQs are available at and .

Social Security benefits for same sex couples

From the The Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers' Network listserv:

For those who have clients that may be eligible, to follow is the link for application information for benefits for same sex couples.

Statement of Acting Commissioner of Social Security on New Payments to Same-Sex Married Couples

Statement of Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, on New Payments to Same-Sex Married Couples

December 16, 2013

"I am pleased to announce that, effective today, Social Security is processing some widow’s and widower’s claims by surviving members of same-sex marriages and paying benefits where they are due. In addition, we are able to pay some one-time lump sum death benefit claims to surviving same-sex spouses. As I stated shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, our goal is to treat all Americans with dignity and respect.


We ask for continued patience from the public as we work closely with the Department of Justice to develop policies that are legally sound so we can process claims.

If you believe you may be eligible for Social Security, I encourage you to apply now to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized."

To learn more, please visit

A quick way to get Social Security income verification

From the Social Security Administration Update; November 2013:

This time of year, a lot of people need proof of their income. People can use their cost-of-living adjustment notice or their SSA-1099 to verify their benefit income. But if they have lost their documentation and need proof of income, it’s easy to get a benefit verification letter at our website.

This letter is sometimes called a "budget letter," a "benefits letter," a "proof of income letter" or a "proof of award letter."

A benefit verification letter can be used to prove income or benefits if someone is applying for a loan or mortgage, needs housing assistance or other state or local benefits, or needs to prove retirement or disability status, Medicare health insurance coverage or age to a third party.

Someone can instantly obtain and print their benefit verification letter by taking a few minutes to create  an online my Social Security at

Obama Administration issues final rules on mental health and substance use disorder parity


On November 8, the Obama Administration issued final regulations implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.  Among other provisions, the final rules ensure that health plans’ co-payments, deductibles and visit limits are no more restrictive for mental health/substance abuse disorders benefits than they are for medical or surgical benefits.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The pre-publication version of the final rules can be found here, but they will be formally published in the Federal Register on November 13, 2013.


HHS Intergovernmental and External Affairs Notification

November 8, 2013

From: Paul Dioguardi

              Director, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs

              U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


RE: Administration issues final mental health and substance use disorder parity rule

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury today jointly issued a final rule increasing parity between mental health/substance use disorder benefits and medical/surgical benefits in group and individual health plans. 


The final rule issued today implements the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and ensures that health plans features like co-pays, deductibles and visit limits are generally not more restrictive for mental health/substance abuse disorders benefits than they are for medical/surgical benefits.


Today’s action also includes specific additional consumer protections, such as:

·         Ensuring that parity applies to intermediate levels of care received in residential treatment or intensive outpatient settings;

·         Clarifying the scope of the transparency required by health plans, including the disclosure rights of plan participants, to ensure compliance with the law;

·         Clarifying that parity applies to all plan standards, including geographic limits, facility-type limits and network adequacy; and

·         Eliminating the provision that allowed insurance companies to make an exception to parity requirements for certain benefits based on “clinically appropriate standards of care,” which clinical experts advised was not necessary and which is confusing and open to potential abuse.

By issuing this rule, the administration has now completed or made significant progress on all 23 executive actions included in the President and Vice President’s plan to reduce gun violence. An updated report summarizing the status of all 23 executive actions is available here:


In January, as part of the President and Vice President’s plan to reduce gun violence, the Administration committed to finalize this rule as part of a larger effort to increase access to affordable mental health services and reduce the misinformation associated with mental illness. As the President and Vice President have made clear, mental illness should no longer be treated by our society – or covered by insurance companies – differently from other illnesses.


The Affordable Care Act builds on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and requires coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services as one of ten essential health benefits categories.  Under the essential health benefits rule, individual and small group health plans are required to comply with these parity regulations. 


The final Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act rule was developed based on the departments' review of more than 5,400 public comments on the interim final rules issued in 2010.


The final rules may be viewed at


A fact sheet on the rules is available here:


Questions or Concerns? Contact



Quick Reference: HIPAA and Public Health

From the Network for Public Health Law:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) omnibus final rule, meant to enhance patients’ privacy protections, provide individuals new rights to their health information, and strengthen the government’s ability to enforce the law. The final rule implements the modifications required by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). The Network’s new resource is a quick reference of the primary regulatory changes to HIPAA.

View the HIPAA resource.

New Get Covered Calculator available

From Enroll America:

We know consumers are hungry for specific information about how much it could cost them to get health insurance. That's why we've just released our Get Covered Calculator! Consumers can estimate their monthly costs -- including the financial help they may qualify for -- by entering their ZIP code, income, household size, and age. This calculator makes it easy to get ready to get covered!

Food Stamp/SNAP benefits reduced as of November 1, 2013.

Food Stamp or SNAP benefits fell on November 1, 2013 for more than 47 million lower-income people -- 1 in 7 Americans -- most of whom live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. That amounts to 21 meals per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cuts will leave participants in the program with an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal. The amount people get could sink even more if Congress makes deeper cuts later this year when House and Senate lawmakers try to hammer out a farm bill.

Statistics show that roughly half of all U.S. children go on food stamps sometime during their childhood; half of all adults are on them sometime between the ages of 18 and 65. The USDA estimates that, as of last year, nearly 15 percent of American families, or 18 million households, lacked enough food at least some of the time to ensure that all family members could stay healthy.

Economists have found that every dollar of SNAP spending generates roughly $1.70 in local economic activity. The USDA has calculated that food stamps generate an even bigger bang for the buck. So pinching food stamp recipients also will squeeze the broader U.S. economy. Among other effects, that could dent revenues for the nearly 250,000 groceries and supermarkets around the country that accept SNAP payments, potentially affecting everyone from store workers and truck drivers delivering food to consumers, as food sellers raise prices to offset the loss of revenue. 

Many people who get food stamps are working. Well over half of SNAP recipients have jobs, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. More than 80 percent of beneficiaries find employment within a year of starting to collect payments.

Although some Democrats in Congress have attacked the Nov. 1 rollback in benefits, the Democratic-controlled Senate in June approved legislation that included $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts. House Republicans envision far more draconian cuts, passing a bill last month that would cut funding for the program by $40 billion over 10 years. 

Read more:

New Web Portal Explains ACA for People with HIV

The Kaiser Family Foundation has produced a new consumer web portal to help people living with HIV navigate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically designed to address the needs of people with HIV, the Obamacare & You portal, funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., is presented as part of Greater Than AIDS, a leading national public information initiative
developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation together with the Black AIDS Institute.

It is estimated that about one in four people with HIV in care in the U.S. are currently uninsured and many more are underinsured. People with HIV could be among those who make the greatest gains in coverage from the ACA, and the
portal was developed to help navigate the new healthcare environment.

Features of the Greater Than AIDS Obamacare and You portal include:

  • A "Find Your Story" feature that explains how someone with HIV may be affected by the ACA based on their current insurance situation;
  • A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section that provides answers to more than fifty questions about the ACA as it affects people living with HIV, such as "Can I be denied health insurance because I have HIV?" and "If I receive services from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program or AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), do I still need insurance?";
  • State-specific information for all 50 states and the District of Columbia on health insurance marketplaces (including a
    list of available plans and information about financial assistance), Medicaid coverage options, Ryan White HIV/AIDS and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, and other relevant HIV resources;
  • A guide to the essential health benefits provided under the ACA with detail about relevance to people with HIV;
  • A downloadable worksheet to help people applying for coverage gather relevant information necessary to enroll and make plan choices that best suit their HIV care needs;
  • Other tools, including links to the Foundation's animated video explaining how to get ready for Obamacare and its health reform subsidy calculator.

"Our new Obamacare & You web portal for people with HIV is part of a growing body of resources the Foundation is developing to help Americans understand the ACA and their choices under the law," said Kaiser Family Foundation President & CEO Drew Altman. "It is especially important that people with HIV understand how potential changes in health insurance will affect their coverage status and access to care and medications that are vitally important to their health and continuing prevention efforts."

Among the aspects of the ACA that have particular relevance for people with HIV seeking coverage in the private insurance market are reforms that preclude insurance companies from using pre-existing conditions as a cause for denying coverage. The removal of spending limits--both annual and lifetime--also have bearing given the high cost of ongoing HIV care. In addition, since HIV rates are disproportionately higher among those with lower incomes, it is also expected that many people living with HIV will seek coverage in expanded Medicaid programs in those states that opt to do so.

The Obamacare & You consumer web portal is part of the Foundation's ongoing effort to help consumers understand the ACA and their choices under the law. The content is the sole product and responsibility of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Gilead Sciences, Inc. provided funding for its development. More of the Foundation's consumer resources on the ACA can be found on

The Foundation also produces fact sheets and analyses on the topic of HIV/AIDS, including materials on how the ACA affects people living with HIV. This information is available at

More information on Greater Than AIDS is available at

Insured Marylanders Have a Right to Appointments with Mental Health Providers Without Unreasonable Delay or Travel

From the Maryland Parity Project:

Maryland law Insurance Article Section 15-830 (d) requires insurance companies operating in Maryland to provide an adequate network of providers, including mental health and substance use disorder providers. The law requires insurers to authorize visits to an out of network provider if an appointment with an in-network provider can’t be found without unreasonable delay or travel.

What Can You Do If You Can’t Get An Appointment?

If you have been unable to get an appointment with a mental health or substance use disorder treatment provider listed in your insurance company provider directory, you can contact the Maryland Insurance Administration for help.

Contact Us for help in filing the complaint

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