Arkansas Healthcare

Arkansas Senate

Legislation to continue Arkansas' compromise Medicaid expansion has failed for a third time in the state House, despite winning approval in the Senate.

The House on Thursday afternoon voted 72-25 Thursday to reauthorize funding for the "private option," falling three votes shy of the 75 needed to keep the program alive.

It was the third failed vote in the House for the program, approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas Legislative leaders say they are finished negotiating new terms relating to the state’s private option alternative to Medicaid expansion, after the bill to appropriate funds for the program failed to get the needed votes to pass.

Arkansas' compromise Medicaid expansion is up for a vote in the state House, a day after an effort to keep the program alive failed in that chamber.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation to continue the "private option" that was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law.

Through the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income workers.

The legislation failed in the House Tuesday, falling five votes shy of the 75 needed in the 100-member chamber.

Davy Carter speaks to reporters
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

 The Arkansas House of Representatives failed to reach a threshold of 75 votes to fund the state’s private option Tuesday. But as KUAR’s Chris Hickey reports, legislative leaders plan to continue to bring the bill up for a vote until the needed votes are secured.

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.

A slice of drama was cut from the state capitol on Tuesday as a state senator previously opposed to the private option said she would now vote to fund it.

State Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) got something in return, however. English, a long-time advocate for restructuring workforce education and training in Arkansas, said she has received support from fellow lawmakers and Gov. Mike Beebe to fundamentally alter programs tied to workforce investment.

Arkansas Legislature House Floor
Chris Hickey / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature meets again on Tuesday after the President's Day/Daisy Gatson Bates Holiday.

The state's "private option" plan of expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law is still the top issue. KUAR's Nathan Vandiver and Chris Hickey have a conversation about the political climate at the state Capitol as legislators prepare for a critical vote.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Changes to the Private Option are making their way through the Arkansas legislature.  On Thursday, the Joint Budget Committee approved new language in the program’s fiscal bill.  It involves the state seeking federal approval for establishing Health Savings Accounts, increasing the number of adults who must share health costs and tweaking how much non-emergency transportation will be provided to people enrolled in the private option. At the meeting, State Representative John Burris said there would be a hard deadline for attaining approval.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

On Wednesday Arkansas Lawmakers were presented with the first concrete proposals seeking to alter the "private option," the state's unique approach to expanding health coverage for thousands of low-income people using federal Medicaid money.


Arkansas Legislature House Floor
Chris Hickey / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature convened for the second day of a month-long fiscal session Tuesday to consider state budgetary matters and other issues. Behind the scenes, lawmakers continue to plan possible changes to the state’s private option expansion of Medicaid in an effort to make reauthorizing funds for the program more palatable to many of the Legislature's conservative members. While House and Senate leaders were confident the program for low-income Arkansans can be reauthorized, House majority Leader Bruce Westerman told reporters that he didn't see that happening.