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Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 10:41 p.m.

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Democrat predicts Medicaid support

By Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

This article was published February 14, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Democrats in Arkansas are unlikely to withhold their support for the state's private-option Medicaid expansion program despite concerns that its coverage has been "diluted," state party chairman Michael John Gray said Tuesday.

Gray, who is also a state representative from Augusta, spoke to reporters after the House adjourned Tuesday. He said Democrats have concerns that state priorities are not being funded, even as the proposed budget is projected to have a surplus and Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposes tax cuts.

Gray said Democrats want to see "more attention" given to funds that help the developmentally disabled and special-education programs in public schools. He also said Democrats did not like removing some low-income Arkansans who earn above the poverty level from Medicaid rolls.

Despite those concerns, Gray said Democrats were not preparing to hold up funding for the expanded Medicaid program, which provides insurance to around 285,000 Arkansans. But he did say some members may be more hesitant to give their support to spending bills.

Conservatives have in the past balked at the program's spending, and moderate Republicans relied on Democratic votes to keep the program funded.

"I don't think there's any chance of Democrats saying, 'We're not supportive of Medicaid expansion,'" Gray said. "We've kind of had to take the crumbs of Medicaid expansion. ... I think there's a real question out there of, are Democrats just an automatic 'yes' vote on any of these things?"

-- John Moritz

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