Local & Regional News
7:36 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Gov. Beebe Optimistic For Renewal Of Private Option In 2015

Hear the report by KUAR's Michael Hibblen.

Governor Mike Beebe speaking Thursday evening to the Delta Grassroots Caucus in Little Rock.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Despite this week’s election defeat of a key supporter of Arkansas’s private option, the governor and a top legislative leader are hopeful the program will be renewed next year.

Speaking to the Delta Grassroots Caucus Thursday night, Gov. Mike Beebe said he believes arguments for the plan and the consequences of not taking federal money for the Medicaid expansion will sway lawmakers.

"I’m ever the optimist. I’m cautiously optimistic. You see, I think logic and reason will prevail. I think if you tell people the truth, the vast majority of people will do what’s right based on what that truth is," Beebe said.

Tuesday Republican State Rep. John Burris was narrowly defeated in a runoff for a north Arkansas Senate seat by private option opponent Scott Flippo.

A three-fourths vote is needed each year to keep the program alive and this year it passed in the Senate with no votes to spare.

State Sen. David Sanders talking to reporters about the private option Thursday night.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

But Sen. David Sanders, who worked with Burris and the governor to create the alternative to President Obama's healthcare plan, said it ways clear this would be a continuous fight.

“We knew in 2013 when we passed the private option that every single year achieving reauthorization was going to be an uphill climb. And that was certainly the case in the fiscal session. It was always going to be the case going into 2015," Sanders said.

“Obviously losing the input, the work product, the knowledge, experience of someone like John Burris in the legislature, we’ll lose a lot of things. It will lose solid votes.”

Sanders, a Republican, argues expanding coverage through the private option has been good for the state. He points to a drop in premiums two months in a row, more carriers preparing to offer coverage and a reduction in the number of emergency room visits. 

But Flippo said it enabled Obamacare in Arkansas.  He also said that while the private option was a major issue, it wasn’t the only one, pointing to opposition of Common Core standards for education and extending term limits.