The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Government Shutdown; & Registration Deadline Extended to Oct. 4 for Delta event

Posted on October 01, 2013 at 05:43 PM

The Oct. 17-18 Delta conference in Memphis will address job creation/economic recovery, the Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown, SNAP and the farm bill; we state some key facts about the shutdown and request feedback by replying to this posting by email to

We will have the two candidates in the nationally watched Senate race in Arkansas in U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, Rep. Tom Cotton, the two frontrunners in the Arkansas governor’s race in Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, Mayor A. C. Wharton of Memphis, and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has confirmed that he will speak.

The shutdown has tremendous implications for the already weak job situation in the Delta region if it continues, and it has a major impact at the federal and state levels, so we will want to question the Members of Congress and gubernatorial candidates about their views regarding the effort to use a federal funding bill to attack the Affordable Care Act. We want to keep our comments here factual and educational.

We have received an influx of RSVPs from people who did not previously know about the Oct. 17-18 Delta conference in Memphis, so we will extend the early registration deadline until Friday, Oct. 4, close of business.

In this newsletter we will address the following:

1) Facts about the government shutdown situation and the Affordable Care Act, and the impact on the Greater Delta Region

2) A rough draft of the agenda for the Oct. 17-18 Delta conference, although this will always have some changes as some speakers will have to adjust their schedules

3) Registration, Basic Schedule, and Group Hotel Information about the Oct. 17-18 Delta conference in Memphis

“The Government Shutdown and the Affordable Care Act”

This is an enormous subject and we don’t claim that this is comprehensive, but we have compiled a list of facts and some commentary to try to help inform people in the Delta about the ACA’s implementation:

Feedback thus far in a nutshell: While many of the Delta partners are concerned about some complications in the implementation of Obamacare, most believe it would be better to pass whatever revisions, changes and improvements rather than shutting down the government. Please convey any views you like.

Health care for underserved areas is a tremendously important issue for the Greater Delta Region, which unfortunately suffers from unusually high rates of health problems. According to the DRA, circulatory diseases are 16% higher, deaths from cancer are 12% higher, and deaths from accidents are 39% higher. More than 32% of adults in the Delta report that they are obese and almost 12% report that they have diabetes.

REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK ON THE SHUTDOWN: Please provide feedback on this situation regarding the shutdown, and especially whether you believe that Obamacare would have such negative consequences that the government should be shut down to stop its implementation. You can reply to this email.

What generated this situation: This situation began when the US House of Representatives voted to pass the federal short-term funding bill with a provision that would have eliminated the federal dollars needed to put the Affordable Care Act into place. The Senate stripped that provision and sent it back to the House.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with “Obamacare” as it is popularly known, it was passed by both Houses of Congress and upheld by the US Supreme Court. It is the law unless it’s repealed, which would require Senate approval. The Senate rejected repeal and indicates it will not change its position, which is sufficient to prevent it. President Obama also promised a veto.

The House voted after midnight on Saturday to delay by a year key parts of the health care law and repeal a tax on makers of medical devices in exchange for avoiding a shutdown. The Senate rejected this as well.

The House then passed a plan to tie further government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance; this proposal would also deny federal subsidies to Members of Congress and their staff, executive branch political appointees, and the White House staff, who would have to buy their health coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance exchanges. The Senate also rejected this plan.

Pluses of the health care law that have widespread support from both parties:

Although the two parties are obviously in bitter disagreement as a whole, there are provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that do receive widespread bipartisan support. The act requires insurance plans to allow young people to be covered until they are 26 by their parents’ plans, thus enabling students to finish their educations before being hit with health care costs when they are also struggling to repay student loans.

The act requires that people with pre-exising conditions are insurable. Removing the cap on coverage that would leave seriously ill people without health care is broadly supported.

We want to hear from all points of view in this debate. President Clinton has emphasized that we need to inform the public about their options under the law.

KEY SOURCE OF INFORMATION REGARDING THE LAW: For those who want to learn how to enroll in the health insurance exchanges, call the US Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-318-2596. Another source of information is the website at

The DRA indicated in a message today that in the Greater Delta region, more than 1.6 million people who lived without health insurance will now be able to seek quality health care without having to consider health care costs against other basic needs. For more information see the DRA website at

Example of practical, thoughtful approach of Republican Sen. John Boozman (R-AR):

Sen. Boozman was a strong opponent of Obamacare, but he expressed concerns about some of the heavy-handed tactics used by Sen. Cruz of Texas and other adamant opponents of the ACA. Boozman expressed concern over those who accused Members of Congress of helping implement the health care law if they did not back Sen. Cruz’s earlier filibuster in the Senate.

Sen. Boozman said he had voted against Obamacare numerous times and tried to defeat it, but stressed that “the idea that if you don’t agree that we need to go all the way to shutting down the government, and then that means that you’re for Obamacare, then certainly I would disagree with that.” Boozman received widespread support for expressing concerns about how far opponents should go in this matter, and we could use more pragmatic, thoughtful comments such as those.

House commentary: Rep. Michele Bachman, R-Minn, said that “The fear shouldn’t be what’s going to happen …tonight. The fear needs to be on the future, what’s going to happen with jobs, what’s going to happen with health insurance for the American people.” Speaker John Boehner said the law is having a “devastating impact…Something has to be done.”

President Clinton responded to these claims by saying that the US Congress can deal with problems in the ACA by correcting, revising and improving the legislation, while keeping the sections that are broadly considered constructive. Clinton disagreed with claims that the act will reduce jobs because companies will cut back working hours. As a matter of fact, 87% of new jobs that have been created the law passed are full-time jobs.

The ACA closes the “doughnut hole” that has been a major expense for many senior citizens and others who rely on prescription drugs, and that will result in lower prices.

President Clinton has pointed out that we need to provide high-quality, affordable health care to all Americans, while doing a much better job of cost control for the best interests of the economy. The USA now spends 17.9% of its Gross Domestic Product on health care while the next highest developed nation, the Netherlands, spends only 12% The average is 9.5%.

President Clinton also emphasizes that in ranking the quality of our health care systems to others who spend far less, the US is not even in the top 10–we are in 25th place. Clinton says that we instead of spending a trillion dollars a year more than nations competing with us, we should renovate the system and have those funds to invest in creating jobs and rejuvenating the economy.

Preventive measures should be emphasized: President Clinton does a great job of emphasizing the importance of preventive measures such as healthier nutrition and life-style choices. By the same token, the ACA has constructive provisions that emphasize prevention, such as free mammograms, prostate cancer screening, and other efforts to prevent illnesses or detect them before they become far more serious.

The ACA closes the “doughnut hole” that has been a major expense for many senior citizens and others who rely on prescription drugs, and that will result in lower prices.

There are clearly difficulties with implementation that will have to be resolved. President Clinton has pointed out that although the Supreme Court upheld the majority of the act, it also ruled that states could not be forced to take Medicaid funds to finance the expansion of health coverage. Clinton said, “That’s going to lead to a cruel result, and there’s nothing the President can do, and it’s not his fault. That’s what the Supreme Court said.”

One Part of Obamacare that may require substantial revision: the Independent Payment Advisory Board:

Naturally there is a concern about the potential impact of proposed budget cuts to a health care system in the Delta that is already over-extended. The ACA could provide many with options they currently do not have. One way in which the bill might be improved is to place greater restraints–some say even repeal–the Independent Payment Advisory Board–which gives un-elected board members the authority to determine payment rates without Congressional oversight, and this could have sweeping implications to the health care delivery system.

One proposal to revise Obamacare that has bipartisan support is the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act, a bill to repeal one of the new healthcare law’s more controversial creations: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). At a minimum, revising IPAB should be seriously considered. (Thanks to Billy Senter of KSC Strategies in Washington, DC for providing information about this bill–we are not yet endorsing but believe Mr. Senter raises valid concerns. He will be one of our speakers at the Oct. 17-18 Delta conference.)

Intended to control Medicare spending, IPAB could actually diminish beneficiaries’ access to quality medical care. IPAB is a panel of 15 unelected experts appointed by the president and charged with reducing the cost of Medicare. According to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), if spending on the healthcare entitlement grows more than a half-percent faster than the overall economy, IPAB must recommend reductions.

Even though IPAB members enjoy extensive power to cut Medicare, many substantive reforms are off limits. IPAB can’t alter the fee-for-service structure of the program or adjust enrollee premiums. And any changes to Medicare Parts A and B are entirely forbidden. Given these restrictions, the only feasible way for the board to slash Medicare spending is by lowering reimbursement rates for healthcare providers. For some seniors, such cuts could quickly translate into reduced access to medical care.

On average, Medicare already pays physicians 20 percent less than private insurers do.1 Not surprisingly, a little over half of physicians have decreased the number of Medicare patients they see.2

If IPAB sets reimbursement rates even lower, doctors could begin turning away beneficiaries in significant numbers. According to a recent survey, nearly 26 percent of physicians would refuse to accept new Medicare patients if payment rates dropped by 10 percent of more, while 14 percent would opt out of the program completely.3

Those physicians who continue to accept Medicare, meanwhile, will be forced to give more of their attention to privately insured patients. So even the Medicare beneficiaries lucky enough to see a doctor will receive a much lower quality of care.

What makes the threats posed by IPAB especially problematic is that the board’s decisions are largely immune to challenges from elected officials. The only action that can block IPAB’s reform proposals entirely is a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate – an unlikely occurrence in this moment of legislative gridlock. Without such a vote, all Congress can do is alter the kinds of Medicare cuts that will go into effect, not the dollar amount. IPAB’s power is so extensive, in fact, that supporters of this legislation state that not even the judiciary has the ability to override its recommendations.

The Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act now has almost 190 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and 35 in the Senate, now representing both parties.4

IPAB does raise serious concerns. Granting 15 unaccountable bureaucrats sweeping power to reform Medicare is not the way to reign in entitlement spending, in the view of this bill’s sponsors. Congress should take a careful look at what a possibly damaging impact IPAB could have on America’s Medicare beneficiaries. Repealing it or at a minimum placing significant restraints and checks on its sweeping power should be seriously considered.

The ACA includes nonbudgetary requirements, mandated entitlement spending for Medicaid expansion and startup spending that has already been distributed to the states. States are opening health insurance exchanges today, Oct. 1, 2013, and Congress’ failure to pass discretionary spending for the new fiscal year does nothing to change that.

As John Brummett wrote in an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article, if the government shutdown were to continue into calendar year 2014, that would be past the time that the federal government starts to pay subsidies to assist with rates for those who will buy health insurance on these exchanges, and those people are a relatively small minority of the population. Economists forecast that if the government shutdown continues that long it will inflict massive damage to the national and global economies.

Here are key categories as to how people will fare under the ACA:

–For those who have a job with an employer-based group that existed before 2010, then your company plan is grandfathered and you proceed as usual without regard to these tables of exchange rates;

–For senior citizens on Medicare, they will proceed as usual with a combination of government insurance and a private supplemental policy that is not relevant to these tables of exchange rates;

–For lower income people below 138% of the poverty level, they will be insured through these exchanges using funding from the federal government. To cite one Delta state’s situation, under Arkansas’ “private option” for Medicaid expansion, about 500,000 Arkansans would be eligible for these exchanges;

–In a category probably not including very many people, for an individual who is buying a personal health insurance policy through this exchange, they would get federal subsidies to bring down their rates if they earning less than $45,960.

–For a family of four buying insurance through the exchange, they will receive federal subsidies to bring down their rates if they earn less than $94,200.

Impact of the shutdown: The government shutdown will have a negative economic impact, with hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed and veterans’ centers, national parks and other government operations stopped. Some nutrition programs like WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the WIC Farmers Markets Nutrition Program would not have federal funds available. For WIC, contingency funds will be available to help states, but this funding will not fully prevent a shortfall for the entire month of October.

With the alarmingly high levels of food insecurity in the Delta, USDA nutrition programs are tremendously important for our region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture made available its contingency plan [ ] (pdf), outlining the impact of a government shutdown on the federal nutrition programs. USDA says:

  • The *Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. *
  • No additional federal funds, however, would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help states - but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October.

  • The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into October.

  • No additional federal funds would be available to support the Commodity Assistance Programs (CAP) including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) administrative funding, and the WIC Farmers’ Markets Nutrition Program (FMNP). Similarly, no new funds will be available to support the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference

“Jobs, Nutrition and the Farm Bill, Health Care”

Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International

October 17-18, 2013

Rough Draft of Agenda-This Is Subject to Changes

Informal Gathering, 3:45 to 4:15 p.m., Courtyard by Marriott Group Hotel Bar, led by Arkansas Rep. Mark McElroy, Delta Caucus Vice Chairman


Betty Dobson, The Historic Hotel Metropolitan and other Delta Heritage Tourism Attractions of the Upper Town Heritage Foundation, Paducah, Kentucky

Jon Chadwell, Newport Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the Blue Bridge Project and other Notable Activities in the Newport area

Greg Maxted, Executive Director of the Harahan Bridge Project across the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas

Annette Dove, TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, working on education, nutrition, job training, and mentoring and tutoring of youth

OPENING SESSION, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2013, 4:30 to 7:45 p.m., Memphis Agri-Center Banquet Room

4:30 p.m.–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Executive Director, Introduction

Delta Heritage Tourism

  1. Betty Dobson, Director, Upper Town Heritage Foundation in Paducah, Kentucky-4:37 to 4:45 p.m.

  2. Greg Maxted, Executive Director, Harahan Bridge Project over the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee to West Memphis, Arkansas; projected includes tourism, transportation and health activities, 4:45 to 4:52 p.m..

  3. President Beverly Robertson, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, 4:52 5:02 p.m.

  4. Shelley Ritter, Director, Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 5:02 to 5:12 p.m. Pamela Marshall, Memphis Area Association of Governments-5:12 to 5:20

Daphene McFerren, Executive Director, the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis-5:20 to 5:30 p.m.

President Steve Bares, Memphis BioWorks Foundation-Renewable energy in the Mid-South, 5:30 to 5:37 p.m.

Hunger and nutrition and health:

  1. Marlon Henderson, CEO, Sharemeister, Inc., explaining the “Delta Caucus Nutrition Challenge” Fundraising Initiative for the TOPPS and MIFA nonprofits on the Sharemeister social giving platform-5:37 to 5:42 p.m.

  2. Annette Dove, TOPPS nonprofit organization, Pine Bluff, AR: 5:42 to 5:48 p.m.

  3. Alan Gumbel, Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), Director of Performance and Quality Improvement, 5:48 to 5:55

  4. Melissa Rice McGowan, Feeding America Southeast Missouri Food Bank, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 5:55 p.m. to 6:03 p.m.

Jobs, Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development

Mayor Bill Luckett, Clarksdale, Mississippi-Jobs, Nutrition, Health-to 6:03 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.

Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, Arkansas, 6:10 to 6:18 p.m.

Lane Kidd, President, Arkansas Trucking Association, on the federal highway bill and other transportation issues–6:18 to 6:28 p.m.

–John Charles Wilson, President, Memphis Agri-Center–Renewable energy and small farmers’ programs; 6:28 p.m. to 6:38 p.m.

6: 46–Srikant Gir, Co-Director of the University of Memphis BioFuels Institute, 6:46 p.m. to 6:54 p.m.-or 7:10 to 7:20 p.m.

Chelsea Clinton of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (INVITED) (Schedule will need to be revised if she can speak) 6:40 p.m. to 7 p.m.

6:38 to 6:46 p.m.-Albert Nylander, Director, McLean Institute for Partnerships and Community Engagement-or 7 to 7:10 p.m. if Chelsea Clinton speaks

6: 46–Srikant Gir, Co-Director of the University of Memphis BioFuels Institute, 6:46 p.m. to 6:54 p.m.-or 7:10 to 7:20 p.m.

FRIDAY SESSION, OCT. 18, 2013, 8:30 A.M. TO 3:30 P.M.

Memphis Agri-Center Banquet Room

8:30 a.m. and continuing as needed through Friday morning –Panel on SNAP nutrition and issues regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act–

(The US Senate and Governor candidates for Arkansas will speak this morning and we will have the nutrition and health care speakers participate on a flexible schedule.)

  1. Kim Sanders, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Director, Illinois Delta Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, on implementation of the federal health care reform law

  2. Jeff Wood, Tyson Foods, on the SNAP nutrition program

  3. Billy Senter on Independent Payments Advisory Board and other issues for federal health care reform law

  4. Dianne Williams, Arkansas Food Bank, Feeding America

  5. Senchel Matthews, Heifer International, based in Memphis, on “Seeds of Change” project in the east Arkasnsas Delta

  6. Mayor Robert Myer, New Roads, Louisiana–hunger and nutrition issues

9:30 a.m.–US Senator Mark Pryor

10 A.M. – Former Congressman Mike Ross, Candidate for Governor of Arkansas

10:45 A.M.-Congressman Tom Cotton, (R-AR)

11:30 a.m.–Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson, Candidate for Governor of Arkansas

  1. Senchel Matthews, Heifer International, based in Memphis, on “Seeds of Change” project in the east Arkasnsas Delta

  2. Mayor Robert Myer, New Roads, Louisiana–hunger and nutrition issues

LUNCHEON: Noon to 1: 20 p.m.

President Glen Fenter, Mid-South Community College, West Memphis–or mid to late morning

Mayor A. C. Wharton, Jr. Memphis, Tennessee–introduced by Minnie Bommer, veteran Delta regional advocate and the first African American woman elected to the Covington, Tennessee City Council)

Congressman Steve Cohen, Memphis, Tennessee

1:20 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.–Big picture panel of six speakers

  1. Bob Nash, Speaker and Moderator, President of Bob Nash & Associates, formerly Director of Presidential Personnel at the White House

  2. Steve Jones, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, based in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas; and DRA Alternate for Gov. Mike Beebe

  3. Loretta Daniel, Murray State University, Director of Regional Business and Innovation Center, western Kentucky

  4. J. William McFarland, University of West Alabama

  5. Jeff Jones, Century Link broadband expansion programs in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas

Sponsors for Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference

“Jobs, Nutrition and the Farm Bill, Health Care”

Memphis, Tennessee Agri-Center International, Oct. 17-18, 2013


Fed Ex, Memphis, Tennessee

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel


University of Mississippi McLean Institute for Partnerships and Community Engagement, Oxford, Mississippi

Arkansas Trucking Association

Heifer International

Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC

Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission


J. William McFarland, Jr., Special Assistant to the President, University of West Alabama, Livingston, Alabama

Rep. Mark McElroy, southeast Arkansas

McGehee Industrial Foundation

East Arkansas Enterprise Community

BGACDC Agency, Phillips County, Arkansas

Southeast Missouri Delta Grassroots Caucus Partners

The City of Earle, Arkansas

Delta Caucus Grassroots Caucus Partners

Last but not least, we would like to thank the hundreds of people who made contributions in the range of $125, $100, $50 or $25 in the form of annual membership dues, registration fees, and other contributions. For a grassroots regional coalition, we need to have a diversified, broad base of financial support from large numbers of relatively modest contributions. The large number of these contributions really adds up to a major part of our budget, and we could not do our work without these donations.

Basic Schedule, Registration and Group Hotel Information for Oct. 17-18 Delta Conference at Memphis Agri-Center International

The basic schedule is:

Opening session is Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at the Memphis Agri-Center.

The Friday, Oct. 18 session is from 8:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m. at the Agri-Center.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the registration fees, which are $125 for those who have not paid the annual membership dues and $100 for those who have. Heifer has paid the membership dues so it will be $100 each for Heifer representatives.

Please make out the $100 check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

GROUP HOTEL: We have a group discount rate at the Courtyard by Marriott at Memphis-Germantown that you can get by calling the Courtyard at (901) 751-0230 and saying you are with the Delta Caucus. There are Kings for $104 and doubles for $109. Most people just stay for the night of Oct. 17, but we also have the group rate for Oct. 18.

We have food and drinks at the opening session on Thursday, Oct. 17, but many people like to have a big dinner after the opening session ends at 7:45 p.m. There is a good restaurant and bar at the Courtyard by Marriott, which is very close to the Agri-Center. There is also a fine restaurant in the Agri-Center complex called The Butcher Shop.