|The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus (MDGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders throughout the eight-state Delta region, which stretches from southern Illinois down to New Orleans, Louisiana.|
Delta Grassroots Caucus Events
Posted on March 05, 2014 at 01:43 PM
The Delta Grassroots Caucus congratulates the Arkansas legislature and Gov. Mike Beebe on passage of funding for Arkansas’ private option health care plan, which has received national attention for being an innovative alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
The decisive vote took place March 4 in the Arkansas House of Representatives, which passed the funding with bipartisan support by 76 to 24.
The Delta Caucus will monitor the progress of Arkansas’ expansion of Medicaid at our annual conference at the Clinton Library on June 12-13, 2014.
We will be inviting Gov. Beebe, as well as the gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, Members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation, state legislators, and grassroots leaders to participate at the conference, which will focus on job creation, workforce development, transportation, broadband expansion and other infrastructure improvements, Delta heritage tourism, the USDA budget and health care for under-served populations.
Schedule, group hotel and registration information for the June 12-13, 2014 conference are below in this posting.
For our leaders receiving this message in the other seven Delta states and across the entire country, we ask you to consider adopting a similar alternative to the ACA in your state.
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
I) ARKANSAS PASSES FUNDING FOR THE PRIVATE OPTION
2) SCHEDULE, REGISTRATION, AND GROUP HOTEL FOR JUNE 12-13, 2014 DELTA CONFERENCE AT CLINTON LIBRARY
3) SUMMARY OF DELTA CAUCUS REPORT ON THE PRIVATE OPTION BASED ON ASSESSMENTS FROM HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS
ARKANSAS PASSES FUNDING FOR THE PRIVATE OPTION
The Senate earlier passed the bill and Gov. Beebe has said he will sign the measure, which authorizes the use of $915 million in federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for more than 100,000 lower-income Arkansans.
The House had earlier rejected the measure four times. Arkansas’ plan has been praised as a model that other states may follow. The private option has less of a role for the federal government and a larger role for the private sector and individual consumerism than the national Affordable Care Act.
The Delta Caucus commends the many members of the Arkansas legislature who joined in this bipartisan initiative to improve health care in Arkansas, including House Speaker Davy Carter, Rep. Mark McElroy, Rep. Jonathan Dismang, Rep. John Edwards, Rep. Monte Hodges, Rep. Reginald Murdock, Rep. Shelia Lampkin, Rep. Kim Hammer, Sen. David Sanders, Sen. Joyce Elliott, Sen. President Pro Tempore Michael Lamoreux and many others. In Arkansas this funding required a three-fourths majority, so it passed the House by one vote more than the number required.
The Delta Caucus prepared an assessment of the private option that was distributed to Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives at the state Capitol in Little Rock by Rep. Mark McElroy. We were in frequent communication with many senators and representatives in Arkansas throughout the process.
Rep. McElroy and Caucus Director Lee Powell both did separate radio interviews in support of the private option on Little Rock radio stations, the favorable assessment was distributed to east Arkansas media, and the majority of Delta Caucus partners have been strong supporters of the private option throughout this debate in 2014-2015.
We know that not everyone was for the private option and we respect their point of view. We would ask everyone to keep giving feedback as to how to improve and adjust the private option health care plan as we move forward.
A summary of the Delta Caucus assessment of the private option based on information from hospital administrators, physicians, nonprofit health care organizations, specialists, insurance professionals is below in this message. The full report is on the website at www.mdgc.us under the “Caucus Articles” link.
The federal government will pay 100% of the costs of the private option for three years.
Beginning in 2017, the state will pay 5% of the cost, or about $45.75 million, if the total expenditure stays at $915 million. Arkansas’ share of the costs will grow to 6% in 2018, 7% in 2019, and will reach the cap at 10% in 2020.
The expanded Medicaid program extends private option eligibility to adults with incomes of up to 138% of the poverty level, which is $16,105 for an individual and $32,913 for a family of four.
Approximately 127,051 Arkansans have been approved for coverage under the expanded Mediciaid program, or slightly more than half of the estimated 250,000 who are eligible, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Of those who have been approved for coverage, thus far 93,966 have been enrolled.
The state of Arkansas cited figures from an actuarial firm it hired (Optumas, based in Arizona) that indicates that the state’s actual costs will be lower than the figures cited above, because of economic multiplier effects caused by the private option, such as new state tax revenue from a surcharge on health insurance premiums, savings from spending less money for medical care for uninsured people, and other state government savings.
The actuarial firm also indicated that the federal funding will generate economic activity and increase state tax revenue by tens of millions of dollars each year. Optumas predicted that there will be a net savings of over $670.3 million over 10 years from the private option and the state’s share of the program in 2021 is estimated at $8.9 million.
SCHEDULE, REGISTRATION, AND GROUP HOTEL INFORMATION FOR JUNE 12-13, 2014 DELTA CONFERENCE AT THE CLINTON LIBRARY
THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 2014, 4:30 P.M. TO 7:45 P.M., CLINTON LIBRARY GREAT HALL
Note: This is a substantive session with speakers beginning promptly at 4:30 p.m.-this is NOT a reception.
FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 2014, 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., CLINTON LIBRARY GREAT HALL
You register by sending in the registration fees, which are $125 for those who have not paid their 2014 annual membership dues.
Registration is $100 each for those who have paid their 2014 annual membership dues.
For a local area that can bring a group of five or more people from your local network, we will give a group discount down to $75 each.
Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:
5030 Purslane Place
Waldorf, MD 20601
The group hotel is the Comfort Inn Presidential in Downtown Little Rock near the Clinton Library. To get the reduced group rate of $82 for the nights of June 12 and/or June 13, please call the hotel before the deadline of May 25, 2014 at (501) 687-7700 and say you are with the Delta Caucus.
Posted on February 09, 2014 at 09:23 PM
Health care professionals and other leaders in east Arkansas assess the private option health care plan’s benefits as clearly outweighing the minuses, and they indicate that not funding the plan would be costly to the region’s hospitals and would miss an opportunity to expand coverage for many previously uninsured people.
Arkansas’ private option was passed with bipartisan support by the Arkansas legislature and Gov. Mike Beebe in 2013, and received national attention as an innovative approach to health care reform that many other states might want to imitate.
In compiling a report based on feedback from across the east Arkansas Delta, the Delta Grassroots Caucus found support from:
–Hospital administrators like Ray Montgomery of White County Medical Center and many other hospital executives;
–Physicians like Dr. Steven Collier of ArCare in east Arkansas, ophthalmologist Dr. G. Edward Bryant in West Memphis and others;
– Bipartisan elected officials like Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) and Rep. Mark McElroy (D-Tillar);
–Insurance executives and many others are supportive of revising and improving the plan, but warned against the consequences of pulling the funding altogether.
–Many other local leaders across east Arkansas who are concerned about health care problems in the Delta and the major missed opportunity that would result from blocking funding for the private option.
Through the private option, Arkansas would use federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for approximately 100,000 poor Arkansans in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
• CEO Ray Montgomery of White County Medical Center, the largest health care provider for a 6-county area in east central Arkansas said “If the Private Option Healthcare Plan is not supported, hospitals throughout Arkansas will endure a profound financial impact. Cuts to Medicare reimbursement that are slated to occur this year will be far more serious; our communities will suffer and jobs will be lost.”
• CEO John Heard of McGehee Hospital in southeast Arkansas supported Montgomery’s position, and emphasized that the private option will have a major impact on rural hospitals like the one in McGehee.
• Administrators from St. Bernard’s Medical Center and NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro indicate that if the private option is not funded, losses just to their two hospitals would be $8 million annually on a conservative estimate.
• Dr. Steven Collier of Augusta, CEO of ArCare, a nonprofit health care organization serving 11 east Arkansas counties, said “Funding the Private Option Healthcare Plan is the right thing to do for Arkansas… one thing is certain, a healthier population with access to health care is long overdue in eastern Arkansas. Funding the Private Option will be a significant step in the right direction.”
• Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) said he has consulted with many health care professionals in his district covering a large area of eastern who are supportive of the private option.
He emphasized that “What we’re doing with the bipartisan Arkansas plan is re-creating Medicaid by placing greater emphasis on the private sector and individual consumerism and much less emphasis on the federal government.”
• Rep. Mark McElroy (D-Tillar) reported he had received similar feedback from health care professionals in his district in support of the private option. “We have people signing up by the thousands, and the worst thing we could do now after we decided to do the right thing on this issue last year is to pull the plug on those people before we even give the privation option a chance.”
• Dr. G. Edward Bryant, an ophthalmologist based in West Memphis who serves a number of east Arkansas counties, and emphasized that improvements can and should be made with the private option, saying “I support the private option, but we should always remain mindful of human nature in forming programs. We should not get stuck in a rut so that we cannot see better options.”
• Dr. Bryant is a specialist, and one of the issues regarding the private option concerns the plan’s impact upon specialists such as opthalmologists, radiologists, heart surgeons, optometrists, dermatologists. He suggested that Blue Cross/Blue Shield have an extensive dialogue with specialists in Arkansas to find ways of treating those categories of health care professionals moving forward. He also suggested that expanding health care savings accounts would be another improvement that could be made for the private option.
• Licensed insurance agents like LeVaughn Smith of Smith Insurance Agency in Helena-West Helena said that the enrollment process when it began last fall encountered serious difficulties, but has steadily improved since then and he is succeeding in signing up more and more clients. He reports increasing interest in signing up as people become more informed about the process, and he is beginning to see more younger people interested in enrolling.
Smith said that he has seen many people in their 40s and 50s who have gained health insurance for the first time after having worked hard all their lives. This has caused a deep impact on many people who had worked at low-paying jobs for many years and only with the private option have they been able to become insured.
Negative impact on the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and many other institutions of higher education in higher Arkansas if the private option is not funded:
Gov. Beebe has indicated that UAMS would lose $28 million if the legislature fails to authorize continued funding for the private option.
More broadly, east Arkansas educators like ASU System President Charles Welch have warned that rejecting the private option will result in approximately $89 million in state budget cuts, and higher education will bear the brunt of those cuts.
There is a budgetary gain of $89 million for Arkansas that will be lost if the private option is not funded.
Expansion of Medicaid facts: The expansion of the Medicaid program extended eligibility to adults with incomes up to 138% of the poverty level of $15,860 ro an individual or $32,500 for a family of four. With the private option, most recipients could enroll in private plans on the state’s health-insurance exchange and have the premiums paid by Medicaid dollars.
Health care is especially poignant for the Delta because our health problems in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other issues are much worse than the national averages. A baby born in the Delta today on average has a life expectancy of 10 years less than one born in northwest Arkansas.
In the extended contact section, a Table of Contents and then the detailed report follows. This is very in-depth and few will want to read the entire report, but we suggest that you can look over the table of contents in the next section and read those sections that you find most interesting.
Posted on January 28, 2014 at 05:39 PM
Most Delta Grassroots Caucus partners see the farm bill as an imperfect compromise that is likely to be the best deal available in this environment of divided government. The Caucus disagreed with cuts of approximately $8.6 billion over 10 years in the SNAP program but acknowledge that this is over $30 billion better than the House version, and the agriculture provisions contain pluses for the region’s farm sector.
As always, there is a range of opinion on this issue. We want to respect all points of view, and there are organizations and individuals who would take a different position. One crucial consideration is that multiple sources on Capitol Hill have informed us that if this conference report is rejected, there could be legislation that is far worse, or even no farm bill at all.
“The majority of our partners would have preferred no cuts at all to the SNAP program, which is a vital safety net against hunger and helps create jobs. The rejection of the extreme $40 billion cuts and coming much closer to the Senate level of $4 billion in cuts was likely the best deal we could get in this budget-cutting environment, and the agriculture provisions contained some pluses,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.
“If we don’t get this compromise we could wind up with something much worse or no farm bill at all. They’ve been wrangling over this for two years and it’s time to resolve this,” Powell said.
State Rep. Mark McElroy, Caucus vice chairman, said “We’re not 100% happy with this but it’s probably the best deal we could get under the circumstances. I’d rather have a farm bill with flaws in it than none at all.”
Among the key Members of Congress developing the bipartisan compromise were Sen. Mark Pryor, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture (D-AR), Sen. John Boozman–a conferee on the farm bill (R-AR), and Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), a conferee on the farm bill; and others across the Greater Delta Region.
For agriculture, the bill moves from the subsidies model to a risk management model, where farmers have to incur losses before getting government payments. It contains greater funding for the national crop insurance program and payments for cotton and rice should be substantial.
Harvey Joe Sanner, one of the Caucus’ senior advisers and president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, said the SNAP program is good for agriculture and helps many people struggling in the Delta’s distressed economy. He said both the agriculture and SNAP provisions could have been better, but “After two years of partisan fights at this stage we need to grin and bear it, move on and try to correct the problems later on.”
Powell said it is vital to inform the public about the great importance of the SNAP program, especially in Arkansas, which according to USDA data suffered from the worst severe food insecurity in the country at 8.1% and the second worst overall food insecurity at 19.7%. Across the Delta region, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama joined Arkansas and Mississippi with 7 out of the 11 worst food insecurity levels in America.
SNAP spending is high because the economy has been suffering for so long, and the fundamental way to reduce SNAP costs is to create many more decent-paying jobs.
On some other nutrition programs, the farm bill has some positive provisions, such as increase in funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that aids food banks, farmers’ market programs, improved SNAP education and training programs, and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. These are good but much smaller than SNAP.
BRIEF FACT SHEET ABOUT SNAP:
–68% of families with children suffering from food insecurity had at least one employed family member.
–Conservative estimates are that the number of children receiving SNAP is about 40%, while the Food Research and Action Center calculates that nearly half of SNAP enrollees are children.
–SNAP creates about 17,900 jobs for each $1 billion in spending, according to the Joint Congressional Economic Committee.
–Moody’s Analytics reports that every dollar spent on SNAP increases Gross Domestic Product by $1.73 to $1.79.
–SNAP benefits are very small as it is–averaging about $4.50 a day. The vast majority of SNAP enrollees either have low-paying jobs or would love to have a job, and would not wish to remain unemployed or under-employed to obtain $4.50 a day.
–92% of SNAP recipients do NOT receive welfare, and only 8% do.
–Waste and abuse in SNAP have been reduced from 4% in the 1990s down to slightly over 1% today. Any waste is bad but it is in fact much more efficient than most huge government programs.
–SNAP cuts make diabetes problems worse: according to the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnston Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, $40 billion in cuts over 10 years would increase medical costs for diabetes nationwide by $15 billion–again pointing out the relief that the extreme figure was rejected. But the lower costs will be harmful to the diabetes problem in the Delta, which already suffers from alarmingly high rates of diabetes.
Posted on January 17, 2014 at 08:35 PM
The Delta Grassroots Caucus praises the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by 72-26 in the US Senate with bipartisan support from US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Vitter (R-LA), US Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), US Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), US Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), US Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and many others from both parties that provided more for the Delta Regional Authority than President Obama requested in his budget, and contained agriculture, economic development, flood control and wildlife refuge that are beneficial for all eight states of the Delta region.
“We commend Senators Landrieu, Vitter, Pryor, Boozman, Cochran, Wicker, Alexander and all the senators from both parties who supported this great departure from our recent exasperating gridlock, averted another destructive government shutdown, provided funding for agriculture, flood control, the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, economic development, and actually provided $3.81 million more for the DRA than President Obama’s budget request–a total of $15 million,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.
“In this budget-cutting climate in Washington, DC when many agencies are seeing their funding slashed, the $15 million for the DRA was an excellent result and we know that Senators Pryor, Boozman, and others in both Houses helped in this result,” Powell said.
“The bill is a compromise and isn’t perfect, but it has many good provisions and is 1,000 times better than a government shutdown.”
The DRA received $3 million in the USDA section of the omnibus spending bill, whereas the Obama administration unfortunately had not requested anything from that source of funding for the DRA. The DRA received $12 million in the Energy and Water section of the omnibus, which was an increase over the President’s budget request of $11,319,000.
The spending bill contains beneficial provisions for flood control, dredging and other Army Corps of Engineers projects on the Mississippi River, in the amount of $5.46 billion, which is an increase of $748 million above the FY 2013 sequester level.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Delta Caucus senior adviser Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena said, “This is great to see this bipartisan deal pass with strong funding for agriculture, economic development, the DRA and $550,000 for the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, recently named for former US Sen. Dale Bumpers of Arkansas for his statesmanlike service to our natural resources and the environment over his distinguished career.”
Rep. Mark McElroy of southeast Arkansas said, “It’s great to have good news for a change in the Delta, and it renews your faith in our political system to see our leaders like Mark Pryor and John Boozman stop this destructive pattern of gridlock and instead do the right thing for the people of the Delta.”
“The Delta Caucus has been very vocal in recent years in denouncing the frustrating gridlock in Washington, DC, so today we want to praise this vote, which we hope will bring about a new and more bipartisan, constructive environment in our nation’s capital,” McElroy said.
Delta states will benefit from more than $300 million for channel improvements and levees along the Mississippi River.
The DRA promotes community and economic development in the eight-state region from southern Illinois and Missouri, western Kentucky and western Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, down to New Orleans, Louisiana and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.
Sen. Pryor chairs the Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee, and the spending bill contains a range of provisions for farmers, agriculture research at Arkansas universities, and other USDA projects.
Agriculture projects in the spending bill are listed in the “continue reading” section:
Posted on January 07, 2014 at 03:53 PM
We’ve received a great deal of feedback that 2013 was the best year yet for the Delta Grassroots Caucus, and we plan to keep that momentum going into 2014. Happy New Year!
The expanded 2014 schedule for the Delta Grassroots Caucus will highlight the following activities, in addition to smaller-scale meetings:
–Ongoing, daily advocacy/communications/educational activities on key Delta issues;
–the late spring, 2014 Delta regional conference at the Clinton Presidential Library;
–support for The College of Aspiring Artists’ Delta to Washington, DC Tour later in the year;
–and a fall, 2014 Delta regional conference to be held in Monroe, Louisiana, to include more partners in Louisiana, south-central and southwestern Mississippi and the southernmost areas of the region.
ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES FOR CALENDARY YEAR 2014: Thanks so much for those of you who contributed annual membership dues in 2013.
The number of people who pay the dues is steadily increasing and our goal is to make this a major component of our budget, which is growing along with the overall growth of the organization.
The only requirement is for $25 once a year, although for larger organizations or those who want to contribute more, we suggest the following:
Individuals or the smaller organizations: $25
Medium-sized banks, chambers of commerce, municipal and county governments, colleges, and other medium-sized groups: $50
Larger banks, chambers of commerce, universities, corporations, foundations, or those who wish to contribute a larger amount: $100
If everyone contributes $25 and some contribute $50 or $100, it will be a major expansion of our budget. The annual dues are separate from the registration fees for the regional conferences and the sponsorships, which are at higher levels.
Again, the only requirement is $25 once each calendar year from everybody. The amount is set that low so that we are clearly not asking for too much.
Please make out the $25, $50 or $100 annual membership dues check for 2014 to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:
Delta Grassroots Caucus
5030 Purslane Place
Waldorf, MD 20601
The initial down payments that the Delta Caucus has to pay for the spring Delta conference and other expenses come due soon as well as other costs, so sending in dues by January 22, 2014 would be tremendously helpful.
The Clinton Library Delta Conference will be in approximately late May and we will finalize the date as soon as possible.
Registration fees for the spring, 2014 Delta conference are $100 each. Registration fees, sponsorships and annual membership dues are the three separate categories of fundraising for the Delta Caucus.
Both sessions for the opening evening session and the all-day session the following day will be at the Great Hall of the Clinton Library this year.
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS POSTING
I. Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference at the Clinton Library, Spring, 2014
II. Key issues for the year-round program of advocacy/educational activities by the Delta Grassroots Caucus partners
III. Visit www.Sharemeister.com social giving platform to help good causes in the Delta, including the current “Delta Caucus Nutrition Challenge”
IV. Support for the group of community leaders coming to Washington, DC from the Delta led by The College of Aspiring Artists in the fall of 2014
V. Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference in Monroe, Louisiana, October, 2014
VI. Listen to audio of President Clinton’s brilliant presentation to the Delta Grassroots Caucus at the Clinton Presidential Center in May, 2013
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