October 25, 2012

The House Republican plan to repeal President Barack Obama’s health law and turn Medicaid into a block grant program would save the federal government $1.7 trillion from 2013 to 2022, a 38-percent spending reduction,according to a report this week by the Urban Institute for the Kaiser Family Foundation.


It would also result in 31 million to 38 million fewer people getting  Medicaid coverage in 2022, according to the report. The entitlement program, which is jointly financed by the state and federal governments, now provides health coverage to about 62 million poor people, about half of whom are children.


The block grant idea — paying a fixed sum to states — was formulated by Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate and chair of the House Budget committee, and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2011 and 2012. The strategy is part of the GOP plan to cut the nation’s $1 trillion federal deficit.


Romney backs a similar Medicaid block grant strategy that would cut $100 billion a year from Medicaid starting in 2013. Under Romney’s plan, federal payments to the states for Medicaid would grow at 1 percentage point a year above the Consumer Price Index. That would slow funding increases, but give states greater freedom in how they use the money, including the ability to cut eligibility or benefits to meet their budget needs. Today, the federal government sets minimum rules and guidelines and must approve any major changes to the program.


The Urban Institute analysis, which updates an analysis originally done in May 2011, said the House block grant plan would cut funding to hospitals by as much as $363.8 billion, and payments to nursing homes by $22.2 billion.


Of the $1.7 trillion cut to Medicaid spending, $932 billion of the reductions come from repealing the Medicaid expansion in Obama’s health law and $810 billion is a result of spending cuts that are part of the block grant.


Under the health law, Medicaid would expand to cover as many as 17 million more people starting in 2014. States have the option to decide whether to expand eligibility, and several Republican-led states including Florida and Texas say they can’t afford the expansion.


This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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Business Groups are Thrilled;
Disability Advocates are Unhappy

In a rare bipartisan action, the Legislature and Governor Brown worked together to craft new legislation in an attempt to move the state forward in bringing more businesses into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  SB 1186, co-sponsored by Senate President Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) was passed with overwhelming support from both parties and signed by the Governor in September.

The major provisions of SB 1186 are:

  • bans “demand for money” letters,

  • requires attorneys to send a notice letter at least 30 days before filing a lawsuit

  • prevents “stacking” of multiple claims to increase monetary damages

  • significantly reduces damages against business owners who correct alleged violations within 60 days of receiving a complaint

  • requires landlords to disclose whether their buildings or properties are state-certified and in compliance with ADA laws

“We are extremely pleased that Gov. Brown recognized that disabled access lawsuits are out of control and that change was needed,” said Kim Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, an industry-sponsored advocacy group.

“This bill should provide some relief to small business owners who are making good faith efforts to comply and it should help rein in unscrupulous plaintiffs’ lawyers who have been exploiting the Americans with Disabilities Act for financial gain,” Stone said.

Sen. Steinberg said SB 1186 is a compromise that applies a “common sense approach” to resolve difficult issues.

“The whole point of our state and federal disability access laws is to remove barriers for the disabled, giving them full and equal access to businesses like everyone else. Up until now, unfortunately, it was often cheaper and quicker for business owners to settle out of court than to remove those obstacles,” he said.  “SB 1186 will instead provide more incentives to fix the violations and enhance accessibility.”

While acknowledging many good points in the new law, representatives from Californians for Disability Rights were concerned with several provisions.  Businesses can now claim ‘good faith’ attempts to comply with the ADA in new and remodeled projects that fail to meet standards.  In so doing, they will be given reduced penalties and additional time when they may have failed to consult with professionals versed in the ADA prior to attempting modifications.  These reduced penalties may work to incentivize non-compliance.

Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, 50% tax credits have been available to encourage businesses to move forward with providing the legally required access to disabled people.  Businesses and government have had 22 years to move into compliance.  With such a high level of financial support and 22 years since passage of the ADA, advocates rightly want to know the fundamental question, “If not now, when?”

Disability advocates are concerned that business interests are using this issue of alleged “renegade attorneys” to disguise core opposition to the ADA itself. “If you can’t criticize the law, then go after the attorneys,” said Tony Goldsmith, civil rights attorney and member of the legislative committee of Californians for Disability Rights.

At the bottom of the food chain are the people living with disabilities who sincerely wish to experience full access to all the U. S. has to offer.  To conflate the issue of the actions of a few attorneys with the desire of disabled people to assert their rights is to risk diminishing public support for the requirements of the ADA.  People living with disabilities also want to experience freedom and independence.  Enforcement of the ADA is essential to the realization of the dream.
The independent living movement takes this issue seriously.  We hope that the compromise worked out in this law translates into moving many more businesses into providing the full access required by the ADA as envisioned by the authors of the law.

The bill is an urgency measure, meaning it will take effect immediately.


In what may be a victim of election season politics, a landmark bill dubbed “The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights,” Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 889 at the last minute on Sunday 9/30/12, stalling efforts to provide common workplace protections to workers – mostly women – who have historically labored without guarantees of overtime or meal breaks.

It needs to be pointed out that sincere efforts were made to ensure that the rights of disabled people employing their own assistants would not be harmed in the process of granting rights to domestic workers in other situations.  “We worked very hard to make sure that the employers, as well as the workers and the disability rights community who ended up removing opposition, were heard in producing this bill,” Ammiano said.

“It’s long overdue for these workers to get these rights,” Ammiano said. “Almost everyone else has had them for decades. There will be new efforts to bring them protections, but we must always remember that justice delayed is justice denied.”

The bill, AB 889, was the product of months of work and negotiation, culminating with a late agreement that would have sent the matter to the Department of Industrial Relations for formulation of regulations.

California would have been the second state to enact labor protections for domestic workers. New York enacted a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010.  The California bill was supported by more than 100 labor, women’s, faith and community groups including National Domestic Worker Alliance, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, CHIRLA, NAACP, AFL-CIO, and Pilipino Workers Center, and has received prominent endorsements from The New York Times and “Parks and Rec” celebrity Amy Poehler.

Click HERE for a link to the entire bill.  The Governor’s veto message can be viewed HERE.



As the two-week Summer Olympics of 2012 comes to a conclusion, a ton of controversy was generated by the appearance of a single competitor from the Republic of South Africa by the name of Oscar Pistorius.  He will be remembered as one of the more compelling stories, alongside the likes of Michael Phelps, Team USA basketball and women’s soccer and the surge of the People’s Republic of China as the main competitor to the ongoing dominance of the USA.

Oscar Pistorius qualified for the semi-final in the Men’s 400 meter individual race before failing to make the finals.  He will return to the Olympic stage for the 4x400m relay before turning his attention to the Paralympic Games.  He was quoted as saying, “I didn’t come here to prove a point. I wanted to do the best I could do and push myself as hard as I can.”

But Pistorius, who runs on carbon-fiber blades because his legs were amputated below the knees as a child, isn’t the first “disabled” athlete to find success against “able-bodied” competitors. Heck, he isn’t even the first South African to do it.

How about this list?

Marla Runyan — The first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics, Runyan ran the 1,500 meters for the United States in 2000 and the 5,000 meters in 2004. She also finished fourth in the 2002 New York City Marathon and won the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon.

Monty Stratton — They made a movie about the Chicago White Sox All-Star who accidentally shot himself while hunting and lost his right leg above the knee in 1938. He never returned to the majors, but he pitched in the minor leagues till 1953 when he was 43 years old.

Sean Elliott — The former Tucson Cholla High and Arizona star was the first pro athlete to play after an organ transplant, returning to the San Antonio Spurs in 2000 less than seven months after receiving a kidney from his brother Noel.

Natalie du Toit — In the 2008 Beijing Games, the South African was the first disabled swimmer to compete in the Olympics and finished 16th in the 10,000-meter swim. Her left leg was amputated seven years earlier after she was hit by a car while riding her scooter.

Natalia Partyka — Born without a right hand or forearm, Partyka also competed in table tennis at the 2008 Beijing Games and represented Poland again in London this year.

Casey Martin — We all were reminded recently of his story when he qualified for the U.S. Open at age 40. Martin, now the golf coach at Oregon, was born with a congenital condition that weakened and atrophied his lower right leg, and he successfully sued the PGA Tour in 2001 clearing the way for him to use a cart while playing in tour events.

Jim Abbott — Born without a right hand, the left-handed pitcher not only made it to the major leagues, he fashioned a 10-year career and, in 1993, while with the Yankees, threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

Anthony Robles — Born without a right leg, Robles excelled at wrestling at Mesa High (Mesa, AZ), where he won a pair of state championships. Then at Arizona State he was a three-time conference champion and All-American, capping it all off with the 2011 NCAA championship.

Like Pistorius, there were those who questioned whether he had an advantage, evidently believing that without the weight of one leg he had more upper-body size and strength than opponents.  Never mind that he had to create a unique wrestling style to fit his body.

Tom Dempsey — Again like Pistorius, critics complained that the Saints kicker, who was born with no fingers on his right hand or toes on his right foot, had an unfair advantage when he booted a 63-yard field goal against the Lions in 1970 that has been equaled, but never surpassed in the NFL.

Dempsey, who wore a flat-toed shoe and kicked straight on, lasted 11 seasons in the NFL and made a Pro Bowl.  For an episode of “Sports Science,” ESPN analyzed the kick and the shoe and found that Dempsey actually might have been at a disadvantage.  No kidding.

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Tis the season for celebration of various holidays throughout the world.  On Sunday, many of us will stop to celebrate Christmas.  We hope that this season finds you healthy and reasonably happy.  We offer for your enjoyment and edification this cartoon from Tom Meyer, which appeared in the Sacramento Bee on Dec. 20.

Wolves Return to California

Reprinted by kind permission of the artist (

Community Garden Plot Thriving as Winter Nears

Husband and wife agricultural team, Tong Vang and Mai Lor, have done amazing work on ILSNC’s plot at the Bidwell Community Garden in Chico.  Following a successful Spring/Summer crop, they re-planted a Fall/Winter garden specializing in a variety of green vegetables – all grown without chemicals or pesticides.  Mr. Vang also constructed a small greenhouse in which they are growing lemon grass.  They work on the garden two to three times a week.

Tong Vang & Mai Lor

Greenhouse constructed by Mr. Vang

They enjoy the health benefits of outdoor activity as well as having fresh, organic produce available to eat and share.  Both Tong and Mai are members of the Hmong Disability Rights Council and are frequent participants in disability advocacy events and campaigns. ILSNC is proud of what Tong and Mai have accomplished.

As other garden plots become available, we will be expanding with new opportunities for community gardening/agriculture for our consumers in the near future.  To learn more and to volunteer with our Community Garden Project, go to: