Public Benefits Task Force

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

Outreach materials from Oct. 29, 2013 training

This page includes outreach materials from the October 29, 2013 training. You can access the latest outreach materials from Maryland Health Connection at They include:

· Maryland Health Connection Overview (in English and Spanish)

· Medicaid Fact Sheets (in English and Spanish)

· Income Eligibility Chart (in English and Spanish)

· Health Coverage Glossary (in English and Spanish)

HCAM Call Center flyer_english.pdf1.84 MB
HCAM Call Center flyer_spanish.pdf1.2 MB
HEAU flyer.pdf1.11 MB
HEAU bookmark.pdf552.48 KB

Health Care Reform in Maryland: Oct. 29, 2013 training materials

This book is a collection of the materials from the October 29, 2013 training, Health Care Reform in Maryland: What Legal Services Advocates Need to Know.

The training includes:

  • Welcome and Overview of ACA – Carolyn Quattrocki, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform
  •   Medicaid Changes in Maryland - Lorie Mayorga, Deputy Director for Eligibility Policy, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  •   Maryland Health Connection Demonstration – Justin Stokes, Program Manager, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
  • Financial Assistance and the Affordable Care Act – Tara Straw, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
  •  Consumer Assistance Panel

4 Sheila Mackertich, Vice President, Health Reform Initiatives, HealthCare Access Maryland;

4 Lee Ann Sapp, Consolidated Services Center Manager, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange;

4 Kimberly Cammarata, Director, Health Education and Advocacy Unit, Office of the Attorney General


  •  Individual Appeals of Eligibility Determinations – Karen Rohrbaugh, Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange


  • The Road Ahead: What Legal Services May See – Jennifer Goldberg, Director of Advocacy for Elder Law and Health Care, Maryland Legal Aid


Oct 29 HCR training agenda - final.doc54 KB
Presenter bios 10-29-13.doc40 KB

Verizon Reduces Free Directory Assistance Calls from 4 to 2 Calls

Office of People’s Counsel


Verizon Reduces Free Directory Assistance Calls from 4 to 2 Calls

October 16, 2013

Verizon Maryland has reduced the number of free directory assistance calls from 4 to 2 calls per month effective October 16, 2013 for landline (wired) telephone service. Each directory assistance call above 2 calls per month will cost $1.99 per call. This change may impact your clients, including Lifeline customers, if they rely on landline service and 411
Directory Assistance from Verizon.

The Company took this action after a new law went into effect on October 1, 2013 permitting Verizon to do this and preventing the Commission from denying the call reduction. The law was passed after OPC successfully opposed this change in two cases heard by the Public Service Commission.

OPC had opposed this change for a simple reason. Even in this age of smart phones and broadband access, adults who are older or with lower incomes will be disproportionately impacted by this bill, since they are more likely than other adults to rely on landline phones and have the need for directory assistance. They will now be subject to additional expenses if they make more than two calls per month.

These are some options for customers to obtain free Directory Assistance information:

  • Internet:
  • Hard copy residential directory: Call 800-888-8448 to obtain a paper or CD-ROM version of the white pages.
  • Physical or visual disabilities: Verizon cannot charge for directory assistance when these disabilities prevent a customer
    from using a telephone directory. If a customer has such disabilities, she should contact Verizon to get this restriction in the customer’s record.

If the customer with disabilities does not get a satisfactory response from Verizon, she should contact the Public Service Commission to make a complaint at 800-735-0474 or 800-735-2258 (TTY/Voice).

OPC also recommends that cell phone users without data plans should check their cell phone plans for the cost of directory assistance calls charged by their cell phone providers.

Alert Directory Assistance Call Reduction.doc64.5 KB

10 Things Assisted Living Homes Won't Tell You

Good things to know, be sure to ask questions about these topics when searching for a good facility.

Preparing for Enrollment: New Resources to Help You Through the Process

From Maryland Health Connection:

Whether you’re enrolling online or in person, Maryland Health Connection is providing you with ways to prepare for the enrollment process. Please visit the new “Prepare for Enrollment” page on where you can review health plans, including Qualified Health Plans and Managed Care Organizations, and review rate estimates. Keep these resources on hand when selecting the plan options best for you and your family. The consumer support center is available to answer questions about Maryland Health Connection at 1-855-642-8572 (1-855-642-8573 services for the deaf or hard of hearing).

The Consumer Information Update page has been updated. We will continue to provide information as it becomes available. We appreciate the tremendous interest in, and support of, We will address issues as they arise, and will continually improve the function of the website so that Marylanders can access quality, affordable health coverage.

5 Obamacare Scams And How To Avoid Them

Share this wherever you can, you know that when there is an opportunity like this, our clients may suffer.

health care resources for uninsured Marylanders

Maryland Health Connection opened its doors this week, and our clients have a new opportunity to access quality, affordable health insurance.  I want to make sure all legal service providers and pro bono attorneys have the resources you need to help your clients access the health care they need.   



Maryland Health Connection has a network of consumer assistance organizations that they call Connectors to offer health insurance assistance in Maryland. They are located in communities around the state and are staffed by navigators and assisters who are certified to help Marylanders enroll in Medicaid or a qualified health plan. By going to a local Connector organization, clients can get one-on-one, in person help to find and select health coverage.  You can find the list of each Connector organization across the state, the map showing what counties they cover, and the hours and locations here.


Clients can also go directly to Maryland Health Connection through the website, and call the Consumer Support Center at 1-855-642-8572.  The Consumer Support Center can handle 200 languages and has services for the deaf and hard of hearing at 1-855-642-8573.


Fact Sheets for Clients

Maryland Health Connection includes a lot of fact sheets for clients.  These documents include:

·         Maryland Health Connection Overview (in English and Spanish)

·         Medicaid Fact Sheets (in English and Spanish)

·         Income Eligibility Chart (in English and Spanish)

·         Health Coverage Glossary (in English and Spanish)


There’s more – check out everything herePlease print out any of these that seem particularly helpful and put them out in your waiting room, distribute them during outreach sessions, and provide them to your clients.

Thanks - and let me know how it goes.  (Sorry for the duplicate postings - I want to make sure this information gets to everyone!)

Earn $80 by participaing in a study about voting accessibility

**Participants Needed for Accessibility and Usability Evaluations of Voting Systems**

Maryland will be moving to a new voting system by 2016. The State Board of Elections has contracted with the University of Baltimore (UB) to conduct a study of potential voting systems to ensure that the system chosen is fully accessible to voters with disabilties.

UB is looking for testers with a range of disabilities for the study, which will take place in Baltimore at UB. The study pays $80 per hour. Testers must be over 18 and eligible to vote.

Please encourage individuals to contact UB to be considered to be a tester. Potential testers can reach UB by email at or 410-837-1974.

A letter from MDLC and a flier announcing the study are attached.

Voting accessibility and usability study.pdf222.33 KB

Health Care Reform in Maryland: What Legal Services Advocates Need to Know

Tue, 10/29/2013 - 9:30am - 4:30pm


Join Maryland Legal Aid on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 for a full-day training in Columbia to learn how health care reform is being implemented in Maryland, who will be eligible for Medical Assistance under the expanded rules that start January 1, 2014, and how your clients can access federal subsidies through Maryland Health Connection to purchase high quality private health plans.   This training is particularly applicable for advocates who currently handle public benefits cases and intake staff,

 Our distinguished speakers include: 

  • Carolyn Quattrocki, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform
  • Lorie Mayorga, Deputy Director for Eligibility Policy, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Sheila Mackertich, Vice President, Health Reform Initiatives, Health Care Access Maryland
  • Representatives from Maryland Health Connection, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and more….

 Sessions include:

  • Overview of the Affordable Care Act
  • Medicaid Expansion
  • Maryland Health Connection
  • Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Reductions
  • Who will help Marylanders apply?
  • Appeals and Notices

This training is open to all legal services staff and attorneys who will be handling pro bono cases for low income Marylanders. Non-Legal Aid staff are asked to pay a $15. registration fee to cover the cost of lunch and materials.

This is one of many opportunities Legal Aid will provide for all staff to learn about health care reform.  Watch out in the coming weeks as we introduce a webinar and specialized training sessions for Maryland Legal Aid staff.

  As with all Legal Aid trainings, if you are a Maryland Legal Aid staff member please consult with your supervisor and obtain approval to attend prior to registering for the training. If you have any questions please contact Yoanna Moisides at  or Yvonne Mathews at



Location Name: 
Charles Ecker Business Center
6751 Columbia Gateway Drive
Yoanna Moisides
Maryland Legal Aid

Now Available: CMS Fact Sheet on Medicare Beneficiaries and the Health Insurance Marketplace

From CMS:

 Please read this important fact sheet, People with Medicare and the Health Insurance Marketplace Frequently Asked Questions.
This CMS fact sheet is designed to reassure people with Medicare that the Health Insurance Marketplace won’t affect their Medicare coverage and is not part of Medicare Open Enrollment, which occurs from October 15 to December 7. It also reminds beneficiaries to protect their personal information during the Open Enrollment season.

Please also share this fact sheet with your colleagues and partners.

Medicare Marketplace FAQs 082213 FINAL.pdf200.66 KB

SSA Urges Same Sex Couples To Apply for Social Security Now

Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a statement on Social Security benefits for same sex couples, stating that some applications for spousal benefits are now being processed. In the statement, she also says, "I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits."

The important benefits she refers to include 1) the Social Security spousal benefit which can provide the lower earning spouse with a benefit equal to one half the benefit of the higher earning spouse, 2) the survivor benefit which provides the lower earning spouse with a benefit equal to that of the deceased, and 3) the $255 death benefit.

The applications, which can now be processed, are limited to spousal retirement benefits and then only if the marriage was performed in the state in which the higher earning spouse is domiciled at the time of application. SSA plans to begin processing additional categories of applications in the next several weeks and months.

Maryland Health Connection Opens Call Center

From Maryland Health Connection:

Maryland Health Connection has opened the first phase of its state-of-the-art customer call center in Baltimore to provide support for residents and small employers statewide. During August and September, the call center will assist Marylanders with general questions about health coverage and preparations for open enrollment. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 am-6 pm. The toll-free phone number is 855.642(MHC).8572, and 1.855.642(MHC).8573 for TTY service.

The call center will be fully operational and staffed with 125 representatives on Oct. 1, 2013, when residents can begin selecting health insurance plans through Maryland Health Connection. The call center will operate seven days a week during the open enrollment period, which ends on March 31, 2014.
Representatives, including bilingual staff, will guide Maryland residents and small employers through their health coverage options, explain financial assistance options available including federal tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and answer customer service questions.

Interpretation services in 200 languages for individuals who require additional assistance are available, as well as TTY service is provided for the hearing impaired.

Representatives will be available during open enrollment (Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014) Monday through Friday, 8 am-8 pm, Saturday, 8 am-6 pm and Sunday, 9 am-2 pm.
Following open enrollment in March 2014, the call center will be open during normal business hours to serve Maryland residents, Monday through Friday, 8 am-8 pm and Saturday, 8am-noon.

CMS Releases Final Rule on Medicaid, CHIP and Health Insurance Marketplaces

HHS Intergovernmental and External Affairs Notification

 July 5, 2013

From: Paul Dioguardi

            Director, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs

            U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

RE:   CMS Releases Final Rule on Medicaid, CHIP and Health Insurance Marketplaces

 Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule implementing provisions of the Affordable Care Act related to eligibility, enrollment, and benefits in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

 This final rule addresses aspects of the Medicaid, CHIP and Marketplace eligibility notices and appeals processes; provides additional flexibility regarding benefits and cost sharing for state Medicaid programs; codifies several eligibility and enrollment provisions included in the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) and provides operational guidance to help states implement their Health Insurance Marketplaces.

 This final rule does not address all of the proposed regulatory changes included in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) released on January 22, 2013.  In order to best assist states in preparation for the availability of new coverage beginning January 1, 2014, this rule focuses on those provisions that are most critical for implementation.  CMS intends to address the remaining provisions of the January NPRM in future rulemaking.

 The final rule is available on display at the Federal Register here:

The accompanying fact sheet about the final rule:



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