An appropriation bill to allow low-income Arkansans to buy private health insurance using federal Medicaid dollars failed to receive the supermajority it needed in the House on Monday afternoon.
The bill received a majority of votes in the House, 69-28, but to authorize the state to spend federal funds on Medicaid expansion, the bill needs a three-fourths majority from the House and Senate.
The House on Thursday passed House Bill 1143, sponsored by Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, and Senate Bill 1020, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, which are identical bills that would allow the state to create a program that would allow 250,000 low-income residents to purchase health insurance using government funds.
HB1143 and SB1020 passed the House with 62 and 63 votes Thursday.
A July decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the federal health-care law allowed states to choose whether to extend Medicaid access to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or $15,145 for an individual. It also calls for states to set up a private insurance marketplace for people to pick their own plan.
In a February meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave Gov. Mike Beebe approval to pursue the plan, and recently gave written confirmation in a letter to Beebe that the federal government supported Arkansas' "innovative approach" to expanding health insurance.
Monday's failed vote came after House Speaker Davy Carter decided to postpone the vote, which was originally scheduled for Friday. House members requested the postponement to have the weekend to discuss the appropriation with their constituents.
The bill will now try later this week at receiving three-fourths support from the House.
The legislative session is scheduled to end Friday.
Read full details in Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.