Arkansas House Votes Against Compromise Medicaid Plan

Feb 18, 2014

Members of the Arkansas House at the start of Tuesday's session, before the vote over the private option.
Credit Chris Hickey / KUAR

While it’s expected to get another vote Wednesday, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted against a bill Tuesday that would reauthorize funding for the so-called private option.

State Representative John Burris, a Republican from Harrison, spoke in favor of it, telling his colleagues it would be best to continue the program that uses federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low income residents.

“Here we are with about 100,000 Arkansans enrolled. I think it’s wise for us as a state to wait.  Let’s take a year. This is an experiment, it’s a three year experiment.  Let’s let this process play out,” Burris said.

Republican Nate Bell of Mena – who had an amendment attached to it that would end advertising for the health care expansion – encouraged his colleagues to support it for now, though he has suggested ending it during next year's regular session of the legislature.

“I’m asking all of us to come together to pass this appropriation. It’s an appropriation that I don’t think anyone in this room really likes, but that most of us can accept,” Bell said.

But Representative Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Hot Springs, spoke adamantly against it.

“Let there be no debate about the stakes of this vote. Here’s the question before us today: is Arkansas going to be an enabler of Obamacare and the Washington, DC interests who seek to impose their will upon us or are we going to hold the line for the people of Arkansas in opposition to this dreadful law.”

The measure fell five votes short of passage, with 70 votes for, 27 against and one persent. It needed a three-fourths vote for approval.

Supporters of the measure are expected to try again, with House Speaker Davy Carter saying he will try multiple times if necessary.