By: Peter Roper of The Pueblo Chieftain

Disabled activists were outside U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton's office Monday -- not to picket but to thank the 3rd District Republican for co-sponsoring legislation that would help guarantee their access to home-care services.

Tipton is one of 70 Republican and Democratic House members who are supporting the Disability Integration Act that is being offered by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Kristen Castor, a Pueblo advocate for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, said disabled activists spent a long summer pushing back against Republican efforts to distribute federal Medicaid funding to the states through block grants.

They feared a block-grant approach could lead to states requiring the disabled to be in nursing homes to get any benefits.

"The Disability Integration Act says that home-care services are also mandated by the Medicaid program," Castor said. "This is as close as we've ever come to getting home care on an equal footing with nursing home care. That's why we want to thank Mr. Tipton for supporting us."

Disabled people use more than 25 percent of all Medicaid funding and the federal program initial required the disabled to be in nursing homes to receive the money. Activists fought that policy in the courts in the 1980s and won the right to have Medicaid pay for home care as well.

Those services can include everything from motorized wheelchairs to oxygen and other essentials.

The Sensenbrenner bill would require that Medicaid give equal weight to home-care services as institutional care.

Tipton joins Colorado Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in co-sponsoring the legislation.