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.

Delta Caucus Praises Arkansas' Passage of Private Option Health Care--March, 2014

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.






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 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.




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:

Delta Caucus

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.

Many people check out of the hotel on Friday morning, June 13, store their luggage and go to the Friday session and come back that afternoon to pick it up, and in this way they only need to stay one night at the hotel.

The hotel is about an eight or 10 minute walk to the Clinton Library. The hotel also has vans that can take people in smaller groups to the Library.

Both sessions are at the Clinton Library Great Hall this year.

“Delta Caucus Reports East Arkansas Health Care Professionals and Local Leaders Support the Private Option”

CONTACT: Rep. Mark McElroy (870) 222-8217; Dr. Steven Collier, ArCare, Augusta (870) 347-3305; or Caucus Director Lee Powell (202) 360-6347

Health care professionals and other leaders in east Arkansas assess the private option health care plan’s benefits as clearly outweighing the minuses. They indicate that not funding the plan would cause profound costs for the region’s hospitals and miss an opportunity to expand coverage for many previously uninsured people in the Delta and the rest of the state.

In compiling a report based on feedback from across east Arkansas, the Delta Grassroots Caucus found support for the private option from hospital administrators, physicians, bipartisan elected officials, insurance executives and grassroots leaders. Views are not unanimous on such a difficult issue, but many are supportive of revising and improving the plan while warning against pulling the funding altogether.

The full Delta Caucus report is available on the website at Here are highlights:

–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 emphasized that the private option will have a major impact on rural hospitals across the state.

–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 “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-Beebe) said he has consulted with many health care professionals in his district covering a large area of eastern who support the private option. He said “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) said he received similar feedback from health care professionals in his district backing 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 in West Memphis said he supported the private option but emphasized that improvements should be made. 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 equitably in 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 had many difficulties, but has steadily improved since then and he is succeeding in signing up more and more clients. 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, and lately has started to see more interest among young people in enrolling.

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. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences would lose about $28 million if the private option is not funded.

There is a budgetary gain of $89 million for Arkansas that will be lost if the private option is not funded.

Alarming data on health issues in the Delta: 33.9% of the region’s adults 20 years of age or older are obese; 11% of adults in the Delta have diabetes; and 19.2% under 65 do not have health insurance.

Compared with national rates, deaths in the Delta region from 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.

People in the heart of the impoverished areas of the southeast Arkansas Delta today on average have a life expectancy of 10 years less than one born in northwest Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Minority Health Commission.