Fiscal Session Of Arkansas Legislature Begins With Call To Resolve Healthcare Funding First

Apr 13, 2016

Arkansas lawmakers at last week's special session of the legislature, which passed the governor's modified Medicaid expansion plan.
Credit ArkansasHouse.org

Arkansas lawmakers have convened a fiscal session focused on the state's budget, with a standoff looming over the state's hybrid Medicaid expansion.

Wednesday opponents of the healthcare program filed a proposal to cap enrollment and terminate the expanded coverage by the end of the year.

Republican Senator Bart Hester wants to repeal legislation signed into law last week with Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to rework the program. It uses federal funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents. Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger filed an identical version in the House.

The legislation approving the expansion passed by large majorities last week, but was shy of the three-fourths support needed for funding.

Hutchinson, a Republican, has warned that state agencies will face significant cuts if the program isn't funded.

House Democrats say they want to resolve the funding issue before any other budget bills are considered this session. House Minority Leader Michael John Gray sent Speaker Jeremy Gillam a letter Wednesday asking that the Medicaid budget bill be taken up before any other proposals. Gray cited warnings that ending the expansion would lead to significant budget cuts.