Committee Advances Funding For Medicaid Expansion, Governor Refuses Changes

Apr 13, 2016

Arkansas Sen. Larry Teague speaking to reporters after Wednesday's committee vote, urging passage of the governor's plan.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The written article is compiled from Associated Press reports.

Funding for Arkansas' first-in-the-nation hybrid Medicaid expansion is heading toward its first vote in the Legislature's fiscal session.

The Joint Budget Committee on a voice vote Wednesday advanced the Medicaid budget bill that funds the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of lower-income people.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure Thursday.

Supporters of the expansion acknowledge they are likely short of the three-fourths vote needed to approve the budget measure. Republicans opposed to the program have vowed to block any budget bill that includes funding for the expanded coverage.

The vote comes less than a week after lawmakers approved legislation outlining Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to keep and rework the program, which was created as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam says it's possible the Legislature may recess if the funding measure deadlocks in the Senate. He told reporters that's one of the options legislative leaders are mulling, which would give lawmakers a chance to talk with constituents in their districts about the impact of ending the expansion.

After the committee vote, Gov. Hutchinson said he's not considering any changes to his plan to win over fellow Republicans who have vowed to defund the program.

Hutchinson told reporters he's confident the Medicaid budget bill funding the expansion has the 75 votes needed in the House to pass. Supporters of the plan have acknowledged the measure isn't likely to clear the 27 votes needed in the Senate.