State is negligent on health benefits for former welfare...


June 03, 1999

State is negligent on health benefits for former welfare clients

While Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg and his colleagues are to be commended for asking the state to "report" to the General Assembly about its efforts to make those exiting welfare "aware that they may continue to qualify for Medicaid," the legislative action misses the mark and perpetuates a basic misunderstanding of the law ("Former welfare clients retain right to Medicaid," letters, May 28).

Federal law requires states to provide transitional medical assistance for 12 months to those leaving welfare because of earnings and requires the state to provide these transitional benefits automatically, without the former welfare clients reapplying for them.

The state, however, has chosen to ignore this requirement, terminating health care benefits when clients leave welfare, then asking the nonprofit community to make them aware of their right to continued health care, should they want it.

Given the average waiting time in welfare offices, few working people have the time to rectify the state's negligence. Given the law, they have no obligation to do so.

This is not about making the working poor aware of their rights to continuing health care insurance. It is about making state officials comply with federal law.

In recent weeks, the state has taken some interim corrective steps to keep more people from losing Medical Assistance. Now, it must give high priority to helping those already cut-off and to fixing the system for the long term.

The state's performance with respect to the law about continuing medical assistance confirms our belief that welfare reform is working because of the character and fortitude of those leaving welfare.

J. Peter Sabonis, Karen Czapanskiy, Baltimore

Mr. Sabonis is director of the Family Investment Program Legal Clinic. Ms. Czapanskiy is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Dear Comptroller Schaefer: Catch me if you can

In response to the complaints about State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's plan to collect sales taxes on out-of-state purchases (" `Couch tax' prompts anger," May 30) I say, that's what happens when people elect politicians who promise the world.

People then have to dig deep and pay for the politicians to keep those promises. To those who voted for Mr. Schaefer and now don't like this plan, I say, shut up and take your medicine.

Here in the People's Republic of Maryland, we like to elect Democrats who say our taxes are not too high and they can't afford to give us a tax cut. Even though it is our money, they act as if it's theirs to give back to us as a favor.

Now we find the lengths this state will go to in relieving us of our cash.

It is funny that the same Democrats who squeal about personal liberty and privacy are now planning to set up checkpoints to accost every van and panel truck entering this state from the south.

I plan to go to Delaware for as many of my purchases as possible.

Catch me if you can.

Michael D. Poliszuk, Waldorf

It's not what you know, but who you know

It pays to have friends in high places. Take the case of Larry Tolliver ("Tolliver to head tax law team," May 27).

Mr. Tolliver has the good fortune to be close to state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. When Mr. Schaefer was governor, he transferred Mr. Tolliver from command of a small contingent of state troopers at the State House to the superintendency of the troopers' headquarters.

Mr. Tolliver's tenure there was comparatively brief and undistinguished.

Now, Mr. Schaefer has appointed Mr. Tolliver to a new unit that will enforce the law requiring purchasers of out-of-state merchandise to pay a sales tax that has been ignored in the past.

It's good to have friends in high places.

Abner Kaplan, Baltimore

Wellness Community helps cancer patients, families

I found M. Dion Thompson's article "The Education of a Hopkins Man" (May 27) very poignant and valuable. What stood out for me was the description of Jason Altman's feelings as he watched his mother battle cancer.

I know what he went through because my mother also died of cancer.

Mr. Altman talked about moments when he "felt utterly alone," when his "life seemed to unravel," when he'd "cry and he didn't know why." For family members and friends of cancer patients, these are difficult times to bear.

I'm relieved Mr. Altman found support through his university, but I want to let other people know of a special organization, the Wellness Community, that has a chapter in Baltimore.

It provides, free of charge, a community of hope, learning and support that brings together people with cancer and their loved ones, making them feel less isolated and improving their quality of life.

The Wellness Community can make a vital difference, especially for college students, but also for people of all ages as they deal with a cancer diagnosis for themselves or someone they love.

Kimberly Owens, Towson

Cancer drugs only help if we can afford them

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