A state senator is asking Gov. Mike Beebe to call a special session to repeal the plan passed by the legislature earlier this year to expand Medicaid coverage through private health-insurance plans.
Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, said a special session is warranted after the announcement last week that the White House is delaying the employer mandate portion of President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul.
King said in a statement that the delay "underscores the need for a special session to fix Arkansas's out-of-control health-care budget."
"We have to face the fact that the delay announced last week was just one of many Obamacare implementation delays; it is very likely that we will continue to see Obamacare implementation delays in the future," King said. "Because Medicaid expansion was, in large part, supposed to mitigate the difficulties of the employer mandate, we are now in a situation in which we're paying for an extraordinarily expensive program which cannot deliver on its promises."
Beebe flatly rejected the idea of a special session, dismissing King's statement as "bluster."
“Of course, I’m not going to call a special session to undo the hard-earned, bipartisan accomplishments of this General Assembly," the governor said in a statement. "Senator King long ago abandoned interest in finding an Arkansas solution to the challenges of Obamacare, instead choosing the pipe dream that somehow it will simply go away if we don’t deal with it."
King said the session would also serve as a way to revisit the "flawed" decision to have a state exchange where Arkansans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level can enroll in private insurance plan coverage with premiums paid by Medicaid. The exchange is set to go into effect next year.
If no special session is called, King said, he will lead a charge to end funding for the private option during the 2014 fiscal session. Defunding it would require 26 votes in the House or nine in the Senate.
Defunding the private option would take away "the federal taxpayer money helping our hospitals and providing insurance for working Arkansas families," Beebe said.
"Instead, we’ll get tax increases for our businesses and higher uncompensated-care costs for both our hospitals and for currently insured Arkansans," he added in the statement. "Plus, the tax dollars we are already paying to Washington will go to help people in other states. Arkansas chose the more positive path, and Senator King’s bluster won’t change that.”