Public Benefits Task Force

Maryland braces for Supreme Court decision on health care reform law

Maryland braces for Supreme Court decision on health care reform law

By Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

June 19 2012, 7:22 PM EDT

Miriam Brand just graduated from the University of Maryland and does not have a job, but she does have health insurance.

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,7483819.story

Agenda for May 3 Public Benefits Task Force meeting


Public Benefits Task Force Meeting

May 3, 2011

9:30 am – 12:30 pm

BALTIMORE (2nd Floor Conference Room)

  1. Welcome and Introductions
  2. DLLR meetings re: UI benefits
  3. Cecil County food stamp case
  4. MA-ABD/SRT litigation
  5. Strategies for handling MA-ABD cases
  6. Systemic issues at local Dept of Social Services offices
  7. Maryland legislative session round-up
  8. Maryland Health Benefit Exchange – Essential Health Benefits
  9. Human Rights Lawyering Program
  10. Training and conferences
  11.  Recognition of Carol Ahlum
    1. Senior Paralegal for Public Benefits position
  12. ADA for Public Benefits position
  13. Case Staffings

*To join via GoToMeeting:*


1. Join the meeting by clicking on the URL link above.

2. Call the conference line at:

Dial +*1 (415) 363-0070*

Access Code: *979-473-406*

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

Public Benefits Task Force meeting on Thursday, May 3rd

On Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:30 am, we will be having our next Public Benefits Task Force meeting in the second floor conference room in the Baltimore City office of the Legal Aid Bureau and via GoToMeeting. Please contact me at by close of business on Tuesday, May 1 if you have any agenda items you'd like to add for the meeting. I'll circulate the agenda on Wednesday, March 2 in advance of Thursday's meeting.

Webinar: Providing Culturally Competent Services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Clients

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm

Join us for a Webinar on May 22

Title:   Providing Culturally Competent Services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Clients

Date:   Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time:  2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EDT


After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:


It is estimated that there are over 1.5 million LGBT older adults living in the U.S. today. This webinar will cover basic information about LGBT older adults, discuss some unique needs, and suggest approaches that your organization/agency may take to improve the quality of services you provide to LGBT older adults, including addressing staff bias that may occur when serving LGBT clients.

Speakers are: Hilary Meyer (National Resource Center on LGBT Aging at Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and Sherrill Wayland (SAGE Metro St. Louis). The program will be moderated by David Godfrey (American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging).

Additional sponsorship for this Webinar is provided by a grant from the Administration on Aging.  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.
All time listings are in Eastern Standard Time.

If you have any questions email




ALJ Assignment at ODAR Baltimore

I have a SSI hearing on May 4th at ODAR Baltimore. As we all know, the identity of the ALJ is "top secret" for now.

Does anyone know the ALJ for whom Kim Bailey works?

Thank you,

Sandy Brushart

New Advisory Committees to Healthcare Exchange Board

Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
2012 Advisory Committees

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (the Exchange) recognizes the importance of having stakeholder engagement as it seeks to establish a new insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. As such, the Exchange Board of Trustees (the Board) will be establishing new Advisory Committees to enable stakeholders to provide input as the Exchange considers key policies and processes that will be required for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Board is accepting resumes for interested individuals to serve on the new Exchange Advisory Committees.  The new committees under consideration are:1. Navigator Program Advisory Committee, 2. Continuity of Care Advisory Committee, 3. Plan Management Advisory Committee

Candidates should submit a current resume along with the “Advisory Committee Interest Form,” available at, by April 27th, 2012 for consideration. Resumes and interest forms should be sent via email to: Tequila Terry, Director, Plan & Partner Management, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, E-mail:

In addition the Board would like to receive suggestions from the public on other committees or topics that should be considered during the implementation process. Please submit suggestions for additional Advisory Committee topics in the “Topic Suggestion” portion of the Advisory Committee Interest Form and email this to

More details can be found at the following link:

21st Annual Law Day for Seniors

Sat, 04/21/2012 - 8:00am - 2:00pm

The Bar Association of Baltimore City’s Legal Services to the Elderly Program is holding its 21st Annual Law Day for Seniors on Saturday, April 21, at the Edward F. Borgerding District Court Building, 5800 Wabash Avenue in Baltimore, from 8 a.m to 2 p.m.

The goal of Law Day 2012 is to educate seniors, their families, and caregivers about available community resources and legal issues affecting them. Maryland Legal Aid attorneys will attend, distribute information and answer questions. About 200 to 300 people attend each year. Parking is free.

Location Name: 
Edward F. Borgerding District Court Building
5800 Wabash Avenue
The Bar Association of Baltimore City’s Legal Services to the Elderly Program

Health Care and the High Court: An Advocate's Guide to Florida et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al.

The information about next week's Supreme Court case challenging health reform is coming quickly  - here's a sampling:

From Families USA:  From March 26-28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral
arguments in the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care
Act. The case, Florida et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et
al., will be argued for six hours over those three days. This is the longest oral
argument before the court since at least the 1960s. Although the court could issue
a decision at any time, a ruling is expected at the end of its term in late June.
The court has divided the case into four separate questions, each of which is
analyzed in detail below. The questions will be argued on the following schedule:

  • Monday March 26: Is the challenge to the individual responsibility provision
    premature under the Anti-Injunction Act?
  • Tuesday March 27: Is the individual responsibility provision constitutional?
  • Wednesday March 28: 1) If the individual responsibility provision is unconstitutional, what happens to the rest of the law (the question of“severability”); and 2) is the Medicaid expansion constitutional?

The Supreme Court recently announced that it will  provide same-day audio of the oral arguments. Audio for the morning arguments on March 26, 27 and 28 should be available no later than 2 p.m. The March 28 afternoon arguments will be posted no later than 4 p.m.

For a guide to the Supreme Court hearings from Families USA - see  Health Care and the High Court: An Advocate’s Guide to Florida, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al.

For Irwin Chermerinsky's view - see

For an array of articles from Kaiser Health News- see

If you just can't get enough - the National Health Law Program has a chart with links to over 120 amicus briefs - you can read them for yourself!

Happy 2nd Birthday Health Reform! New Website for Maryland

On this second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (better known as "health care reform")  - Maryland has launched a new Maryland Health Care Reform website

For more information - see the announcement from Lt. Gov. Brown.

SSA Webinar on Providing Effective Communication for Individuals with Mental or Cognitive Disabilities

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will host a webinar titled Providing Effective Communication for Individuals with Mental or Cognitive Disabilities.  The webinar is a part of SSA’s ongoing Section 504 self-evaluation.  Additional information about Section 504 is available at

Date: Monday, March 26, 2012

Time:  1:00 p.m. EDT

During this webinar, Social Security will review how we communicate with individuals with mental or cognitive disabilities.  At the end of the webinar, we will ask you to complete a survey to obtain your ideas on the subject.

To view the webinar, we ask that you RSVP no later than March 25, 2012.  Please click here to register.

SNAP, food stamps

Five million seniors will experience hunger this year, but only 1 out of every 3 eligible seniors receives SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program).

In this webinar, we will discuss:

  • The basics of the SNAP benefit.
  • Why seniors don’t apply for SNAP and what aging network advocates can do about it.
  • Opportunities to expand your resources to help older adults obtain this valuable benefit.


Nora Dowd Eisenhower, Vice President, Center for Benefits Access
Lura Barber, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Benefits Access

This Webinar will be offered twice:


Tuesday, March 20th at 3:00 PM eastern daylight time


Thursday, March 22nd at 10 AM eastern daylight time.


Register here:


Hilary Sohmer Dalin

Director, Policy and Programs

National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment

National Council on Aging

1901 L Street, NW

Washington, DC 20036

Human rights argument in Affordable Care Act amicus brief to Supreme Court

From the Poverty & Race Research Access Council


CERD Treaty raised in Affordable Care Act amicus brief:  PRRAC joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and other groups in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on the "Medicaid Expansion Provision" portion of the challenge to the Obama health care law currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The amicus brief, drafted by Martha Davis of Northeastern Law School and Risa Kaufman with the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, argues that the Medicaid Expansion Provision, by seeking to mitigate racial disparities in access to health care, is responsive to U.S. treaty obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  The brief cites the U.N. CERD Committee's 2008 "Concluding Observations" on health care disparities in the U.S., which echo PRRAC's coalition shadow report submitted to the Committee earlier that year.  Davis and Kaufman also point out that, since its passage, U.S. officials have repeatedly cited the Affordable Care Act to the U.N. as evidence of U.S. efforts to reduce disparities in access to health care.   


Medicaid expansion amicus brief re CERD.pdf176.44 KB

**Community First Choice Meeting Announcement**

Community First Choice Implementation Council Meeting

Thursday, March 8th, 1:00PM -- 3:00PM


Kennedy Krieger Institute: PACT
Merritt Family Building
7000 Tudsbury Road
Baltimore, MD 21244

Please Note: There will be limited space at this month's meeting location (normally meetings will be held at DHMH) so calling in may be a preferred option. 
Call-in / Log-in Information:

Adobe Connect Meeting Name:  Community First Choice Implementation Council Meeting
Conference Number(s):  866-829-6002
Participant Code: 7742036

To join the meeting:

  • Introductions
  • Develop and discuss implementation council decision timeline
  • Review participant eligibility
  • Begin defining covered services and discuss person flow into CFC program 
  • Next steps 

Please Note: Only implementation council members are allowed in discussion during agenda items. There are federal requirements for Community First Choice implementation ensuring a consumer majority on the council. All call-in members will be asked to state their name prior to making comments. At the end of the "next steps" agenda item we will allow for non-member comments.

Consumer Health Foundation Launches New Website - Ngozi Project

The Consumer Health Foundation launched the Ngozi website - a consumer-focused resource that provides information about accessing and paying for health care in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. The project was named after Ngozi Hall, a Prince George's County uninsured resident who shared her difficulties in finding health care for herself and her husband at a community forum that was organized by the Foundation. Ms. Hall said that it would be helpful to have a resource about the health care system.


The Ngozi website provides information on health access that is:

The materials which have been developed will:


Help children and adults who don't have health insurance:

  • find out if they qualify for public insurance
  • start the application process
  • learn about options if they don't qualify for public insurance but still need help
  • know what's available if they are not U.S. citizens
  • find where to go for more help

Help people with medical bills:

  • find out if their insurance should cover it
  • contest an incorrect bill
  • find a health insurance program that can help pay
  • learn what to do if a collection agency contacts them
  • know where to go for more help

Help everyone communicate better with their providers through:

  • tips for preparing for appointments
  • examples of how to get the information they need from providers
  • suggestions for keeping track of their health records

 Help provide information about health care reform especially:

  • what it means for uninsured individuals and immigrants

In developing the resource, the Foundation gathered input from community health workers, social workers, parish nurses, hotline operators and school counselors who worked or volunteered in nonprofit organizations. It also partnered with national and local organizations to obtain their feedback.


The Foundation hopes that by providing this resource, residents of our region will be better informed and empowered in navigating the health care system. The Foundation views this resource as a first step and we welcome your feedback about the Ngozi Project website, especially in how we can make it most useful to our community. Please email your comments to

Behavioral Health Integration: Kick-Off Meeting

To update:
The behavioral health kick-off meeting will be held on March 14, 2012 from 1:30pm-3:30pm. The meeting will take place in rooms 4 and 5 of the Health Sciences Pavilion of Anne Arundel Medical Center. The address is 2000 Medical Parkway, Annapolis MD 21401. Directions are below.
Materials will be forthcoming in advance of the meeting. Thanks for your attention!
-Jesse Kopelke
From Annapolis and the Eastern Shore
Route 50 West to Jennifer Road, exit 23A.
Turn left at the light onto Jennifer Road.
Cross over Medical Parkway.
Turn right at the Health Sciences Pavilion directional signs, to GARAGE E.
From Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Points West
Route 50 East to Parole, Exit 23.
Bear right onto West Street.
Turn right onto Jennifer Road.
Before reaching the light at Medical Parkway, turn left at the signs directing parking to the Health Sciences Pavilion. Park in GARAGE E.


Email from DHMH


Good afternoon!


As many of you know, on December 27, 2011 Secretary Sharfstein released a letter regarding Maryland's progress on behavioral health integration. In this letter, Dr. Sharfstein explained that one of the next steps for Maryland in deciding how to move forward with behavioral health integration will be for the Department to establish a planning team led by the Deputy Secretary for Health Care Financing to review Maryland's financing and integration options. By September 30, 2012, this planning team must develop a draft approach to integrate care based on the findings in the consultant's report and as refined through a planning process that involves stakeholders.


The kick-off meeting for this planning process will be held in Annapolis the afternoon of March 14 (specific time and location to be determined). The agenda for this meeting is attached. Your feedback regarding Maryland's financing and integration options for behavioral health are very important to this planning team and we look forward to your contribution.


Please look for a more detailed e-mail soon, with more information and materials.


Thanks for your attention,

Jesse Kopelke



Jesse Kopelke

Work: (410) 767-3480

Cell: (410) 868-3500

BHIntegAgenda3142012.pdf172.66 KB

Spanish webinar:Work and Life Changes Require Health Choices: Know Your Options and Your Rights

See below for registration info for a webinar en Español on February 29th, 2010 from 1pm-2:30pm

Additioanl link at the bottom for English speakers.

Protect Yourself and Your Family: Know Your Job-Based Insurance Rights

As a young adult just entering the workforce I'm lucky that my father's job offered health insurance, and that he was smart enough to take advantage of it and protect himself and his family. If not, I would be paying off medical debt for the majority of my lifetime. He made sure that our family was covered at all times, even during times of change, because a costly emergency could happen at any moment.

Making sure that you know your options and rights when it comes to job-based health coverage could save yourself and your family from restless nights and countless headaches. It is especially important to know how to protect yourself and your family when your life changes, like you get a new job, get married, have a baby, or even get laid off.

Families USA is excited to be partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor to reach out to the Latino community to provide an orientation, in Spanish, about our health care rights as workers with job-based health insurance. Join us for a Spanish language webcast to learn more about the rights you and your family have under federal health benefit laws, and what to do to protect them. The webcast will take place on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. EST. You can sign up here, and you can also follow some of the conversation on Twitter at #healthbenefits.

Work and Life Changes Require Health Choices:
Know Your Options and Your Rights
Date: February 29, 2012
Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EST
Registration: CLICK HERE

If you do not speak Spanish, but would like to learn more about your rights and options when it comes to job-based health care coverage, check out some U.S. Department of Labor resources here.

Public Benefits Task Force meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 9:30 am, we will be having our next Public Benefits Task Force meeting in the second floor conference room in the Baltimore City office of the Legal Aid Bureau and via GoToMeeting. Please contact me at by close of business on Tuesday, February 28 if you have any agenda items you'd like to add for the meeting. I'll circulate the agenda on Wednesday, February 29 in advance of Thursday's meeting.

U.S. Seniors Missing Out On $20 Billion Of Benefits

U.S. Seniors Missing Out On $20 Billion Of Benefits
Millions of seniors in the United States are missing out on more than $20 billion in aid that could help pay for food, medicine and heating, simply because they don't know it's there, according to a report released on Tuesday by organizations that advocate for seniors. In response, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) have launched a campaign, "You Gave, Now Save," to help bridge the gap between the available funding and those who need it the most.  See: The Senior Disconnect: Millions are Losing Billions in Benefits, online February 14, 2012.

2012 Federal Poverty Guidelines

Below you will find tables detailing the 2012 HHS Poverty Guidelines.   

This table is available at:

A copy of the Federal Register entry (on January 26, 2012) for the new guidelines is available at:

2012 HHS Poverty Guidelines

The following figures are the 2012 HHS poverty guidelines that are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on January 26, 2012.
(Additional information will be posted after the guidelines are published.)

2012 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia

Persons in

Poverty guideline

















For families/households with more than 8 persons,
add $3,960 for each additional person.

2012 Poverty Guidelines for

Persons in

Poverty guideline

















For families/households with more than 8 persons,
add $4,950 for each additional person.


2012 Poverty Guidelines for

Persons in

Poverty guideline

















For families/households with more than 8 persons,
add $4,550 for each additional person.

Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers

The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who generally make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing.

Find a VITA site near you or call 1-800-906-9887.

The TCE Program offers free tax help for all with priority assistance to people who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors. IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

Find an AARP Tax-Aide, site near you or call 1-888-227-7669 for more information on TCE

Facilitated Self-Assistance
In addition to traditional face-to-face tax preparation, the IRS is launching a self-assistance service at select locations. If individuals have a simple tax return and need a little help or do not have access to a computer, they can visit one of the participating tax preparation sites and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide them through the process.

Find a Facilitated Self-Assistance site near you

Items you need to bring to the VITA/TCE sites to have your tax returns prepared:

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security Number or the provider's business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

It is extremely important that each person use the correct Social Security Number. The most accurate information is usually located on your original Social Security card. If you do not have an SSN for you or a dependent, you should complete Form SS-5, Social Security Number Application. This form should be submitted to the nearest Social Security Administration Office.

If you or your dependent is not eligible to get a Social Security Number, you may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

The text above comes from the IRS at:,,id=107626,00.html

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