2013: No one could accuse Mary Lou Magee-Kern of a lack of spirit. The former lead vocalist performed with her band at festivals up and down the East Coast. A perpetual favorite, she even holds the keys to Ocean City, given by the mayor after one of her performances.
But then, burdened by a slew of medical problems, Ms. Magee-Kern couldn’t work and couldn’t pay the bills. She and her husband drained their bank account, leaving just $25, since that’s what the bank required to keep it open. They borrowed from family and friends, even her former boss.
She says: “I felt like I was caught in mud, in quicksand, and I couldn’t get out.”
With surgeries and medicine to pay for, what more could she do? She applied for Medicaid.
Here’s what she got from the state of Maryland in return:
The longer she waited, the sicker she got. Frustrated by the runaround, Ms. Magee-Kern went looking for a lawyer. She talked to Maryland Legal Aid, who referred her to Camilla Roberson at the Public Justice Center. That’s a picture of Ms. Magee-Kern and Ms. Roberson at the top of the page.
“If I have to stand up in court, I will,” Ms. Magee-Kern said. “No one should have to go through this.”
Turns out, thousands of people were going through the same thing.
The Public Justice Center had been monitoring Maryland’s Department of Human Resources (DHR), which had an incredible backlog of Medicaid applications for people with disabilities. DHR was taking far longer than the 60 days allowed by Maryland law to let people know if they were eligible for Medicaid.
Given her own suffering and the larger scope of the problem, Ms. Magee-Kern sued the State, represented by the Public Justice Center, the Homeless Persons Representation Project, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.
Two days later, the State found her eligible for Medicaid.
But the greater problem hadn’t been solved. Within a few months, a settlement was reached. As a result, the State has since eliminated a backlog of over 9,000 delayed cases and has agreed to promptly process all other applications for Medicaid on the basis of disability.
The support of people like you helped make this possible.
Looking ahead, Ms. Magee-Kern would like to get healthy and return to work. She especially wants to perform again with her band, which once shared the stage with the likes of Ray Charles and Gary Puckett.
Moving forward, the PJC and our co-counsel will check to make sure that people are getting their benefits on time.
Ms. Magee-Kern first took to the stage when someone dared her to come out of the restaurant kitchen to play drums and sing James Brown. With that kind of spirit in response to a challenge, we may yet see her on stage again.