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Health care programs for people with disabilities presented at Hagerstown forum

October 09, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Brenda Laughlin has watched her Medicare supplemental insurance costs rise "like crazy."

She is spending about $380 per month -- about a third of her income -- supplementing her Medicare benefits.

"On Social Security, that's pretty hard," Laughlin said.

On Wednesday, Laughlin heard some good news -- she might be eligible for a state program that would pay the premiums, co-pays and deductibles that aren't covered by Medicare.

Michael Dalto, project director for Employed Individuals with Disabilities, explained the program during a forum on health care and people with disabilities hosted by the Washington County Disability Advisory Committee and Deafnet.

About 30 people attended the forum, which was at Robinwood Medical Center.

It was the first in a series of forums on different topics hosted by the Disabilities Advisory Committee, said Peggy Martin, chair of the committee.

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"We have the legislative session coming up in January, and health care is something we can have an impact on in the legislative session," Martin said.

The forum featured four speakers, including Dalto, who talked about state health care programs for people with disabilities.

Dalto focused on the Employed Individuals with Disabilities program, which provides money for health care costs for some employed, disabled people.

Kelli Cummings, director of community living policy with the Maryland Department of Disabilities, talked about several state programs, including some that help pay for in-home attendent-care.

Two speakers represented Medicaid Matters, an advocacy group that is working to preserve and expand Medicare.

After the panel spoke, audience members asked questions and talked about some of their health care concerns.

Kathy Bell said she had to wait two years to get approved for health insurance after a vehicle accident shattered both of her legs.

Martin cited an e-mail from a paraplegic couple that have to go to bed at 7:30 p.m. because they cannot find an in-home care provider that will stay any later.

"It goes to the issue of independent living," Martin said.

Information about the programs discussed Wednesday, including the Employed Individuals with Disabilities program, can be found on the Maryland Department of Disabilities Web site at www.mdod.maryland.gov or by calling 1-800-637-4113.

Information about Medicaid Matters can be found on the group's Web site at www.medicaidmattersmd.org or by calling 410-625-9409.

For information on future Disability Advisory Committee forums, call Norman Bassett at 240-313-2077.

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