Public Benefits Task Force

Finding Lost Pension Plans: Webinar

Tue, 06/18/2013 - 12:30pm

For those who wished you could come to our pension rights training in March, or who are yearning for more, here's your chance!  See information below about a new webinar on finding lost pensions! - help your clients get the money they are owed.

The webinar Finding Lost Pension Plans is hosted by the Pension Rights Center, a grantee of the U.S. Administration for Community Living/Administration on Aging.  Participants in this webinar will learn about the problem of lost pension plans and the resources available to find these plans.

 Speaker:  Emily Spreiser, Staff Attorney, Pension Rights Center

 Date: June 18, 2013

Time: 12:30 p.m. EDT



Pension Rights Center

How to Promote Good Legal Advice for Immigrants and Protect Your Community against Fraud: Webinar

Mon, 06/10/2013 - 2:00pm

The Immigration Advocates Network invites you to join a free webinar, “How to Promote Good Legal Advice for Immigrants and Protect Your Community against Fraud,” on Monday, June 10th at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific. This webinar will discuss immigration fraud; the unauthorized practice of law; and, how to work with a lawyer. The panelists are Liz Sweet, Associate Director of the ABA Commission on Immigration; Susan Timmons, Associate Director of Practice & Professionalism at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA); and Mary Carmen Madrid-Crost, Chair of AILA’s National Consumer Protection & UPL Action Committee.

Immigration Advocates Network

Maryland Health Progress Act Ensures Access to Quality, Affordable Care

From the SHIP Health Action Newsletter

Effective June 1st, 2013, the Maryland Health Progress Act completes a three year process to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Marylanders that formally had little to no access to quality, affordable health care now have options that have never existed before.  The bill promotes transparency, non-discrimination, and fiscal responsibility that will help create a robust marketplace and provide feasible options for many Marylanders left out in the cold.  This legislation also makes sure that we continue the progress of 2007 that expanded Medicaid thousands of residents.

 Signed into law in May of 2013, the Maryland Health Progress Act expands Medicaid to 133% of federal poverty, establishes a dedicated funding stream for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, provides for the migration of Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) members in order to ease their transition and moderate the potential impact on rates, allows for the development of a state reinsurance program to counteract potential short term pressures on rates, establishes policies to promote continuity of care when individuals move in and out of Medicaid and commercial insurance, and makes other changes necessary for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to achieve final certification as a state-based exchange.

 Click here for an advocate's guide to the Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013.

 View the SHIP measures and tools for increasing the proportion of people with health insurance.

Maryland Center for Health Equity

From the Maryland SHIP Newsletter:
According to various measures, Maryland is one of the highest performing states in the nation. However, despite the gains across the state, significant health disparities in healthcare and health outcomes continue to exist. Eleven of the top fifteen causes of death show a disparity in the mortality rate between African Americans and whites, with African Americans nearly three times more likely to die in infancy than whites. In order to address these disparities, the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) was launched in 2010. Since its establishment, M-CHE has made enormous impacts including the creation of a framework for eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities that incorporates community engagement, research, training, and the development of public policy that can be replicated on a state and national level. Using an interdisciplinary approach to health equity, the center places particular emphasis on working with students and the next generation of medical and public health professionals.

 Click here to read the full story.

 Click here for more information about health disparities in Maryland.

Connect for Coverage: Maryland Health Connection Community Outreach Summit

Wed, 06/05/2013 - 8:30am - 12:00pm

Maryland Health Connection invites community-based organizations, advocates, health care providers, state and local agencies, and others reaching uninsured Marylanders and eligible Medicaid recipients to join us for this informative event. We will discuss health reform in Maryland, the state-based insurance marketplace, health disparities, consumer assistance and innovative approaches to outreach.

Date/Time: June 5, 2013, at 8:30am-noon
Location: UMBC University Center Ballroom
Address: 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250


Join us to:

  • Learn more about Maryland Health Connection.
  • Meet the six Connector Entities that will serve the six regions in Maryland. They will discuss their approach to outreach, education, eligibility, and enrollment.

In addition, please join us to hear the latest from these leading experts:

Lynn Quincy, Senior Policy Analyst with the Consumer Union, specializes in affordable health care coverage, better health insurance choices and tax credits. Lynn will explain tax credits and how these credits will help consumers pay for health insurance.

Patrick Holland, Director, Wakely Consulting in Massachusetts, is an expert in providing guidance to public and private entities navigating through the Affordable Care Act. Patrick will discuss his experience with other state exchanges and what Maryland can expect.

Melinda Dutton, a partner within the healthcare division of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP, specializes in the legal, regulatory and political challenges of Medicaid and other public programs. Melinda will discuss what role Maryland Health Connection navigators and assisters will play before and during the enrollment process.

A panel of authorities with a wealth of information relating to health reform and Maryland Health Connection will also speak, including: Becca Pearce, executive director of Maryland Health Connection; Dr. Carlessia Hussein, R.N. Ph.D., director of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD) in the office of the Maryland Secretary of Health; and Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director with the Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform, who provides oversight and coordination of Maryland's implementation of health care reform.

Please RSVP on the Maryland Health Connection website.

New Analysis Shows Maryland's Share of Seniors Living in Poverty is at Least Double the Official Rate

Maryland's Supplemental Poverty Rate is 17%, compared to the official rate of 8%.  See news release below from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

New Analysis Finds Share of Seniors Living in Poverty at Least Double the Official Rate in 12 States Under Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure

The Census Bureau's official poverty measure estimates that 9 percent of seniors nationally live in poverty. However, some have criticized that measure for not taking into account health care costs, the impact of taxes, and in-kind government assistance (such as assistance with energy costs) and for not varying poverty standards regionally based on the cost of living. To address those concerns, the Census Bureau in 2011 released an alternative "supplemental" poverty measure that shows 15 percent of seniors nationally living in poverty. The increase in the poverty rate is largely due to the consideration of health care costs in the supplemental measure.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis presents state-by-state poverty rates among seniors, based on the supplemental measure. Under this measure, the share of seniors living in poverty is higher in every state than under the official measure, and is at least double the official rate in 12 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The District of Columbia has the highest rate under the supplemental measure, with about one in four (26%) seniors living in poverty.

The study includes examples that show how a senior who is not classified as living in poverty under the official measure is considered to be living in poverty under the supplemental measure, because of high out-of-pocket medical costs or because of high housing costs where they live, for example.

The analysis provides context for assessing the implications of proposals under consideration in the deficit-reduction debate that would affect seniors with modest incomes, including proposals that would raise costs for people on Medicare or scale back Social Security benefits. Proposals to raise Medicare cost-sharing requirements or premiums, if enacted, would likely contribute to higher poverty rates for seniors under the supplemental poverty measure. The work is part of the Foundation's Project on Medicare's Future.

When Medicare launched, nobody had any clue whether it would work

Interesting column for those who wonder - will health care reform work?  This is a historic opportunity ....

TANF Participation of Eligible Families is Falling – but from Obstacles to Access, not Less Need

From Legal Momentum:

 Legal Momentum has a new brief report, TANF Receipt Falls to Less than One Third of Eligible Families, showing a troublesome decline in participation in the federal block grant program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The report is based upon new figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Legal Momentum has previously examined how and why TANF enrollment has fallen since ‘’welfare reform’’ began in the 1990s.  As discussed in our detailed 2011 report “Welfare Reform at 15,” the decline appears to be due to restrictive policies and unreasonable hurdles in accessing the program, rather than due to actual decreased need.  In addition to application process barriers, these obstacles include time limits, family caps, and five-year eligibility bans for legal immigrants.  One of the important facts to take away from the report is that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly the Food Stamp program) continues to enroll most eligible families, even as TANF enrolls a smaller and smaller minority of eligible families.  

HHS Releases Enhanced Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services standards

From the National Health Law Program:

Today, HHS released the Enhanced Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards. The Enhanced CLAS Standards update and expand the original CLAS Standards from 2000. The guiding principle for the 15 standards is to Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs.

The Standards and other infomration on providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services are available on the Office of Minority Healths website Think Cultural Health. A Blueprint accompanies the new standards, offering additional information and resources.

HHS press release is available here.

Webinar: What You Need to Know About SSI

Wed, 05/15/2013 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm

Webinar: What You Need to Know About SSI

 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EDT

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program? Who qualifies for SSI benefits? What are the eligibility rules of the program? And how are SSI benefits the same as, and different from, other benefits from the Social Security Administration? We will answer these questions and explain what you need to know to be more informed and effective in assisting SSI recipients.

Presenters are Kate Lang, Staff Attorney and Gerald McIntyre, Directing Attorney of the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

Additional sponsorship for this Webinar is provided by a grant from the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living. This webinar is part of a series of National Elder Rights Training Project webinars for the National Legal Resource Center.

There is no charge for this webinar. If you have any questions about this webinar, e-mail

To register -


US Hospitals Send Hundreds Of Immigrant Patients Back To Home Countries To Curb Cost Of Care

The Associated Press/Washington Post: US Hospitals Send Hundreds Of Immigrant Patients Back To Home Countries To Curb Cost Of Care
In interviews with immigrants, their families, attorneys and advocates, The Associated Press reviewed the obscure process known formally as "medical repatriation," which allows hospitals to put patients on chartered international flights, often while they are still unconscious. Hospitals typically pay for the flights (4/23). 

White House Briefing Series on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the Affordable Care Act

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 9:00am - 12:00pm

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) will host the fourth in a series of regional meetings on the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) in Baltimore, Maryland.  This series of meetings is designed to promote awareness and understanding of local-and state-level efforts as they relate to the implementation of the NHAS and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The goal is to engage key stakeholders about ongoing challenges and successes of NHAS/ACA implementation.

 Meeting Details

Date: Monday, April 29, 2013

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EDT)

Site:  Vollmer Center Auditorium, Clyburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring

Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 

 This meeting is free and open to the public, but if you wish to attend, you must RSVP.  Once you submit your RSVP, you will receive a detailed confirmation letter via e-mail.

 If you have questions about registration or other logistics, please contact Marjorie Burdetsky at

White House Office of National AIDS Policy

Leveraging Health Care Reform: Cultural Competency & Health Literacy Strategies Webinar

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm

On Monday, April 22nd from 2:00 to 3:00 pm the Coalition is hosting the first in its webinar series on Cultural Competency and Health Literacy.  These are two of the pillars to ensure that we create a Culture of Health in Maryland where everyone will receive health care services that meet their individual needs.  Consumers must understand not only what it means to have an insurance card, but also how to use it effectively. 

In this first webinar we will discuss the basics as an introduction to the future webinars.  Topics we discuss will include::

  • Definition of the terms - cultural competency and health literacy; and
  • The framework for integrating these into Maryland's health care reform initiatives.

Our two dynamic speakers are:

  • Laura Herrera MD, MPH serves as the Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH).  In this capacity she oversees local public health, prevention and health promotion, and health systems and infrastructure.   Prior to this she served as the Chief Medical Officer (DHMH) and Acting Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer in the Veterans Administration.  She also served as an advisor for the Coalition's Issue Brief - Health Equity: The Promise of Health Care Reform.  
  • Maria Rosa Watson DDS, DrPH is currently the epidemiologist and Research Director for the Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County.  She has a broad background in health disparities, public health, Latino health, health literacy, health promotion and disease prevention, barriers to access to care, and qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis.

Register now!  Need more information? Contact us.

Maryland Women's Coalition for Health Care Reform

CMS proposes help for consumers navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace

HHS Intergovernmental and External Affairs Notification

 April 3, 2013

 From:  Paul Dioguardi

Director, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 RE:      CMS proposes help for consumers navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace

 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule today outlining standards that Navigators in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces must meet, and clarifying earlier guidance about the Navigator program. 

 Navigators are organizations that will provide unbiased information to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplace, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 “Navigators will be an important resource for consumers who want to learn about and apply for coverage in the new Marketplace,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. 

 Millions of Americans will be eligible for new coverage opportunities in 2014. For those who are not familiar with health insurance, have limited English literacy, or are living with disabilities, Navigators will serve an important role in ensuring people understand the health coverage options available to them. Navigators will provide accurate and impartial assistance to consumers shopping for coverage plans in the new Marketplace.

 Navigators are a significant component of efforts to enroll Americans in the Marketplace. And CMS will ensure that all consumers who need customer service can receive it from trained professionals.  In addition to Navigators, consumers will have access to assistance through services such as a call center, where customer service representatives can provide referrals to the appropriate state or federal agencies, or other forms of assistance programs including in-person assistance personnel, certified application counselors and agents and brokers. 

 Open enrollment in the Marketplace begins Oct. 1, 2013, with coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

 To access the proposed rule released today, visit:

 Please contact if you have any questions.

Updating the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program For A New Era: Key Issues & Questions For the Future

From the Kaiser Family Foundation:

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is a more than two-decade old federal effort that provides care and services to more than half a million people with and affected by HIV each year.

With its current authorization set to expire in September, policymakers are weighing the program’s future at a time when scientific advances in antiretroviral treatment, the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the release of the country’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy have significantly altered the environment in which the program operates. The brief, Updating the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program For A New Era: Key Issues & Questions for the Future, identifies key issues and questions facing the program and explores a range of potential changes for policymakers and others to consider. These fall into four broad, intersecting areas:

  • Supporting people with HIV at each stage of the treatment cascade, from diagnosis to viral suppression;
  • Building HIV care networks in underserved communities;
  • Integrating HIV care expertise into the mainstream health care system effectively and fairly allocating Ryan White resources.

Reports,  Studies  and Toplines Icon Report (.pdf)

Ryan White kff.pdf5.83 MB

What Our Clients Really Need is Money! Helping Clients Make the Most of Their Pension

Tue, 03/05/2013 - 10:00am - 2:00pm

Free Training on Pension Rights!  Learn from the experts at the National Pension Rights Center how to advise clients so they can get the most out of their pensions.  We all know that many legal problems stem from the fact that our clients simply don't have enough money to pay their bills.  By helping clients understand their pension rights, you could be helping them increase their income every month!  From helping clients understand pension statements to finding lost pensions, some basic advice can go a long way.  This training is appropriate for many types of advocates: including folks who handle intake, consumer law, elder law, family law, and more.  Legal Aid staff, other legal services advocates, and pro bono or volunteer attorneys are all welcome!

So, join us on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:00 am- 2:00 pm, for What Our Clients Really Need is Money! Helping Clients Make the Most of their Pension. The training will be held at the Charles Ecker Business Training Center located at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046. Lunch and materials will be provided.

To sign up for this free training opportunity, go to 

 Topics include: 

- overview of basic features of employer sponsored retirement savings plan

-basic rules and terminology

-issue spotting pension problems

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 at  .



What:       What Our Clients Really Need is Money! Helping Clients Make the Most of Their Pension

When:      Tuesday, March 5, 2013 10:00 -2:00 p.m.

Where:     Charles Ecker Business Training Center located at 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, MD 21046

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

Final Rule on Essential Health Benefits and New Report on Mental Health Parity

From the Department of Health and Human Services:

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a final rule that will make purchasing health coverage easier for consumers.  The policies outlined today will give consumers a consistent way to compare and enroll in health coverage in the individual and small group markets, while giving states and insurers more flexibility and freedom to implement the Affordable Care Act.

 Today’s rule outlines health insurance issuer standards for a core package of benefits, called essential health benefits, that health insurance issuers must cover both inside and outside the Health Insurance Marketplace. Through its standards for essential health benefits, the final rule released today also expands coverage of mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, for millions of Americans.

 A new report by HHS, also released today, details how these provisions will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for 62 million more Americans.

 In the past, nearly 20 percent of individuals purchasing insurance didn’t have access to mental health services, and nearly one third had no coverage for substance use disorder services.  The rule seeks to fix that gap in coverage by expanding coverage of these benefits in three distinct ways:

 1. By including mental health and substance use disorder benefits as Essential Health Benefits

2. By applying federal parity protections to mental health and substance use disorder benefits in the individual and small group markets

3. By providing more Americans with access to quality health care that includes coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services

 To give states the flexibility to define essential health benefits in a way that would best meet the needs of their residents, this rule also finalizes a benchmark-based approach. This approach allows states to select a benchmark plan from options offered in the market, which are equal in scope to a typical employer plan.  Twenty-six states selected a benchmark plan for their state, and the largest small business plan in each state will be the benchmark for the rest.

 The rule additionally outlines actuarial value levels in the individual and small group markets, which helps to distinguish health plans offering different levels of coverage.  Beginning in 2014, plans that cover essential health benefits must cover a certain percentage of costs, known as actuarial value or “metal levels.”  These levels are 60 percent for a bronze plan, 70 percent for a silver plan, 80 percent for a gold plan, and 90 percent for a platinum plan. Metal levels will allow consumers to compare insurance plans with similar levels of coverage and cost-sharing based on premiums, provider networks, and other factors.  In addition, the health care law limits the annual amount of cost sharing that individuals will pay across all health plans – preventing insured Americans from facing catastrophic costs associated with an illness or injury.

 Policies in today’s rule also provide more information on accreditation standards for qualified health plans (QHPs) that will be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplaces (also known as Exchanges), one-stop shops that will provide access to quality, affordable private health insurance choices.

Together, these provisions will help consumers compare and select health plans in the individual and small group markets based on what is important to them and their families. People can make these choices knowing these health plans will cover a core set of critical benefits and can more easily compare the level of coverage based on a uniform standard.  Further, these provisions help expand choices and competition on the Marketplaces.

For more information on today’s rule, visit:

 To view the rule, visit:

 For more information on how today’s rule helps those in need of mental health and substance use disorder services, visit:

 Please direct questions to


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