A vote on the budget bill that would let the state implement a plan to use federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low income Arkansans is expected again Tuesday morning after failing in the House by six votes Monday afternoon.
The bill was rejected 69 to 28 because, as a funding bill, it needed 75 votes to pass.
Speaker Davy Carter allowed a motion to adjourn immediately following the no vote. He says the House will vote again.
“The health care issue is the biggest issue we’ve got, it’s been the biggest issue all session and that drives a lot of other areas,” Carter said. “I’m still very hopeful and optimistic that we’re going to pass it.”
The plan to insure adults in the state making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level with private insurance paid for by federal money intended for Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act has already passed the House and Senate as a plan, but still needs a funding appropriation.
Carter wouldn’t say outright, but Governor Mike Beebe did say that failure to pass the “Private Option” would mean no tax cuts this session.
He says without the private option, there’s not much of a session left.
“Well I think we’re going home. I think you just wrap up Revenue Stabilization, which is the only thing left basically, I think there’s three or four appropriation bills left, get those things up, out, get them passed, do Revenue Stabilization and go home,” Beebe said.
The Governor also reiterated his opposition to calling a special session to decide the issue.
While it may be a simple matter for Beebe and Carter, several lawmakers who aren’t decided in the matter say it’s a complicated issue that they need more time to explain to constituents.
Representative Randy Alexander of Fayetteville voted against the appropriation. He said he’s for the “Private Option” plan but since it’s such a big issue, he needs to see more substantial support from his constituents to vote yes, despite thinking that it’s the best decision for the state.
“This is the biggest vote, I’ve heard from several people, probably in years in the Capitol, in terms of the magnitude, the financial impact, this is a huge vote and the thing that I’m uncomfortable about is that the people that elected us have not had time to digest this, and I would like to give them that time,” Alexander said.
Representative Ann Clemmer of Benton said she doesn't know what the best option is. She logged a non-vote for the appropriation and holding out for voter feedback in her district.
“I think we’re a little bit ahead of where the public is right now, and so this extra time gives us a little chance to bring the public on board,” Clemmer said.
Whether Clemmer, or Alexander, or any other legislators still making a decision need more time, Carter says they’ll have the opportunity to vote again.
“If it takes two, or three, or four, or five, or six, or you know, I don’t know,” Carter said. “We’ll vote as many times as necessary, as long as we’re making progress.”