The state House of Representatives did not address reauthorizing the state’s private-option Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, opting instead to hold off the vote for at least another day.
Following Tuesday's session, Speaker of the House Davy Carter said that, while reaching a conclusion on the private-option Medicaid budget is important, the House has “moved on” to other matters for the time being.
“There [are] a whole lot of other things we have to focus on,” Carter said. “We have to set the budget for the state of Arkansas and we need to do that in the next week-to-10 days. So we’re going to get through that and I still think we’re going to work our way through this situation.”
Carter, R-Cabot, said it is "a fact" that the House's struggle to reach the necessary number of votes on private-option funding is because some representatives who were believed to be in support of amendments to the bill — proposed by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena — reneged on their commitments.
“Negotiations were had,” Carter said. “They were had with my office. With House leadership, with Senate, with Senate leadership and the Governor of Arkansas [Mike Beebe]. And members of the Democratic party who did not like these [amendments brought forward by Rep. Bell] in any form or fashion. That was all done. And apparently, it appears that after we cast four votes last week, those [talks] were not done in good faith.”
The House has failed to pass versions of the bill in four consecutive votes last week, while the Senate passed its version 27-8 on Thursday.
Both appropriation bills in the House and the Senate required a supermajority — 75 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate. On Friday, the House voted 71-18 in favor of the bill. The number of votes in favor of the bill have remained consistently high in the last week, with 70 members voting yes on Tuesday, 68 on Wednesday and then 72 on Thursday.
Carter had said it would be a "game-time decision" whether to hold a fifth vote Tuesday. He had initially vowed daily votes until it passed. Representatives will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
Read tomorrow’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more details.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.