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House again rejects private-option bill

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published February 19, 2014 at 7:07 a.m. Updated February 19, 2014 at 2:38 p.m.


State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, speaks Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, against a bill to fund of the state's private option Medicaid expansion.

Private option funding bill falls short again

The House voted 68-27 in favor of a bill continuing Arkansas's private option Medicaid expansion, seven votes short of the required supermajority for passage. Another vote is set Thursday. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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Voting screen for Wednesday vote on private option funding bill in the state House.

2:07 p.m. UPDATE:

The state House of Representatives has again voted down an appropriations bill to continue the private option Medicaid expansion.

Representatives on Wednesday voted 68-27 against the funding bill. The vote came a day after the body voted 70-27 against it. Republican Reps. Ken Bragg and Denny Altes and Democratic Rep. Tommy Thompson shifted from "yes" votes on Tuesday to abstaining Wednesday. Green Party Rep. Fred Smith voted yes after not voting Tuesday.

Despite the bill falling short — by more votes than it did Tuesday — House Speaker Davy Carter didn't back away from his vow that it will eventually succeed.

"We're making progress," he said. "This bill will pass. We'll continue to vote."

Another vote in the House will occur Thursday afternoon. Carter said the Senate is expected to vote at 11 a.m. He added there seem to be some members who will vote if the Senate passes it first.

"I can't say that I fully understand the reasoning behind that, but I have heard that, so we'll see," he said.

Carter said he had "no clue" why the members who supported the bill Tuesday didn't vote Wednesday. And he reiterated a statement from the day before that negotiations on the bill are done.

"We're not going to pass substantive laws with a minority of the membership," he said. "That's not how this works, that's not how it's ever worked and it's not how it's going to work in the future. Again, it's not going to happen. So we can play this game every day — and I'm prepared to do that and will do that — but the end result is going to be the same."

The Senate, which had initially been set to vote on the bill, did not take it up Wednesday. Officials said during that session that its vote would come Thursday regardless of how the House vote went.

The Senate appears to have the necessary 27 votes for passage after a deal Tuesday with Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock. English agreed to shift from opposing the measure to supporting it in exchange for a statewide program that aims to better workforce training.

The private option narrowly passed last year but since lost at least two votes in the Senate. State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, has said she will vote against it this year after supporting it in 2013. And Sen. John Cooper, R-Jonesboro, who was elected in a special election, opposes the private option. His predecessor, Sen. Paul Bookout, supported it.

Carter vowed at the start of the fiscal session last week that the private option would pass both the House and Senate, adding that failing to do so would create an about $90 million hole in the budget. After the failed vote Tuesday, he said the House would continue to vote — and would not engage in further negotiations — until it passed.

The private option plan allows the state to buy private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level using federal Medicaid money.

The program initially is covered entirely by federal funds, but the state by 2020 would have to pay for 10 percent of it.

Information for this article was contributed by The Associated Press.


Comments on: House again rejects private-option bill

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TheBatt says... February 19, 2014 at 12:55 p.m.

Just love the concept of "just keep voting on it until it passes". Maybe there is a reason there are not enough votes to pass it... it is a BAD deal for Arkansas taxpayers in the long run. If Arkansas backs out of state expansion of Medicaid - the Feds step in and do it themselves.... and guess what... the cost doesn't transfer back to Arkansas taxpayers...

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nwar says... February 19, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.

No thebatt, they don 't. Arkansans just get to pay the taxes associated with Obamacare and get nothing for it. And 100,000 people that would be getting federal money to help them buy private insurance are just SOL. It's just cutting off your nose to spite your face and the working poor get shafted again.

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GWayne says... February 19, 2014 at 3:34 p.m.

Ok, Like this measure If passed again- Will help the working Poor/Low income in Arkansas.
Right now your Tax dollars are supplying, UN-Wed mothers,thier children due to Absent fathers, and dead beats with medicaid _ UHm- Why do you agree to pay for them and leave out the WORKING- Poor & Low income.
AND oh- by the way- Medicaid spend down is being phased out that was helping those with extreme Medical Bills, , AR-Health Net Insurance (that people pay for) , Hospital Discounts are being turned down ( that help low income working / seniors making too much for Medicaid). ALL because Obama Care is in effect and will continue to be in effect. So why are you punising the WORKING PEOPLE OF ARKANSAS?????. See if you get voted in again!!!. Not by me and many others!!!

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FreeSpiritMan says... February 19, 2014 at 4:33 p.m.

Po .... idiot in charge of ignorance.

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FreeSpiritMan says... February 19, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

Gwyane ...... you are one of the one's PO is in charge of.

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FreeSpiritMan says... February 19, 2014 at 4:41 p.m.

Speaking of low PO, you could probably walk under a snake standing up.

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SouthCounty says... February 19, 2014 at 4:49 p.m.

Ballinger, Your County Is One Of The poorest there is In arkansas, So I Wonder Who Your Representing, Obviously Not The Poor.....

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Packman says... February 19, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.

Stop your whining you silly working stiffs. That antique Nancy Pelosi and my hero BARACK! want me not to work so I can pursue me dreams without worrying about actually working for a living. STFU and start paying my bills. Sweet, sweet Nancy and BARACK! just love spending other people's money on people like me. I LOVE Obamacare.

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