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story.lead_photo.caption Officials in the Arkansas Senate on Wednesday await the vote on House Bill 1219, which would pass private option healthcare in the state. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

A day after the House passed a bill that would allow low-income Arkansans to buy private health insurance using federal Medicaid dollars, the Senate followed suit with a 28-7 vote Wednesday evening.

The vote to fund the program came after a series of delays, during which legislators ultimately pulled both versions of enabling legislation — House Bill 1143 and Senate Bill 1020 — from the governor's desk to be amended by the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees.

House Public Health Committee Chairman John Burris, R-Harrison, said the amendments will give the state more flexibility over the private option program and would give the state more protections.

HB1143, sponsored by Burris, and SB1020, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, 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 had passed the House on Thursday with 62 and 63 votes, respectively.

House Bill 1219 required two attempts from the House, one Monday and one Tuesday morning, to gain the three-fourths majority required to pass. After the pieces of enabling legislation were amended, the Senate was able to gain the supermajority it needed in one vote to send the budget bill to Gov. Mike Beebe's desk to be signed into law.

Beebe is expected to sign the bill into law at any time.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Senate votes on private option funding bill

After day-long delays in the Senate and amendments to the legislation enabling the Medicaid "private option" expansion for the state, the Senate casts its vote on House Bill 1219. (By David Harten)
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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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