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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Kelley Linck — R-Flippin, presents Senate Bill 96 to end the private option at the end of 2016. - Photo by Danielle Kloap

A bill to end the Medicaid private option by the end of 2016 and find another solution for the state's health-care program passed the House on Thursday.

The House passed the legislation with 80 for, 16 against and three voting present, and the bill will go back to the Senate for approval after representatives amended the bill to add co-sponsors.

Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, would create a task force to suggest a replacement for the private option.

Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Flippin, presented the bill to House members and noted that it ends the debate of the private option.

"The private option ends at the end of 2016 and [the bill] puts in motion a task force that figures out what do we do," Linck said. "We've got to have a healthier Arkansas before we can have a better system. People have to take better care of themselves."

Several representatives spoke both for and against the bill, challenging each other to consider promises made during campaigning to constituents.

Many who spoke against the bill said they were disappointed the private option wouldn't end sooner and that there would not be a cap placed on enrollment in the Medicaid program.

Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs, said that she saw SB96 as the only way to end the private option.

"Bill after bills after bills have gone through committee that haven't gotten out," Rushing said. "This is the only one here to vote to end private option. The reason I'm voting yes is because I made a promise do everything in my power to end private option and this is the only path we have."

Rep. Donnie Copeland, R-North Little Rock, said he was voting against the bill because he feels like the private option isn't effective for any demographic.

"I would contend we got working people getting squeezed, we got poor people being squeezed," Copeland said. "This thing is rotten end to end. We need to not end, not terminate but repeal the act then start over and truly help people in this state."

Members of the House also approved SB101, an appropriation bill that includes $1.9 billion for the private-option program.

The Democrat-Gazette previously reported that the Department of Human Services estimates the program will cost about $1.62 billion in fiscal 2016.

The legislature approved expanding the state's Medicaid program eligibility in 2013 to adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

See Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.


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  • dunk7474
    February 5, 2015 at 6:46 p.m.

    Why would they not know of a new plan and it's cost before voting to kill something? Are these people REALLY that dumb?

  • carpenterretired
    February 5, 2015 at 7:25 p.m.


  • TheAntiBrummett
    February 5, 2015 at 8:19 p.m.

    The task force will have until December 31st, 2015 to come up with a plan to offer insurance to those currently eligible for the Private Option and Arkansas Medicaid. The reason the Private Option was voted to end one year after that date is that the cost of that program to Arkansans is unacceptably high for such a small group of people. It is safe to say that whatever plan is put in place, it will be cheaper than the current Private Option for Arkansans. The problem is that we will probably be using federal block grant to get to the same end. And Obama will be willing to give them as much of my money, and China's, as they desire. Socialism doesn't work. I'm 'bout tapped out.

    February 5, 2015 at 8:25 p.m.

    Baggers hate healthy citizens.

  • carpenterretired
    February 5, 2015 at 8:38 p.m.

    For those who become tapped out all they have to do is get rid of all wealth and income and join the ranks of the real poor and live the good life with food stamps and a salvation army cot at night, which conservative republicans always seem to envy.

  • dymondd
    February 5, 2015 at 8:50 p.m.

    Armnar, Are you that Stupid?. ALLYOUR COMMENTS YOU HAVE POSTED ONE SIDED poor black child mentality

  • NoCrossNoCrown
    February 5, 2015 at 10:24 p.m.

    send in the clowns
    There's plenty of clowns
    ......this go round

  • lazybar
    February 6, 2015 at 1:20 p.m.

    dunk thats exactly what was done when obamacare was voted in.
    goo thinks the baggers don`t want healthy citizens when the truth is the dems only want healthy subjects

  • Slak
    February 6, 2015 at 1:57 p.m.

    ARMgoo, expert on bagging, declares unhealthy bags are the best!
    What? More of that vinegary goodness?

  • Morebeer
    February 6, 2015 at 2:16 p.m.

    Well, cooter says the 2017 cost would be unacceptably high, but it would be about half the cost of the tax cut that was just passed. January's state revenue surplus (revenue above forecast) alone would pay for most of 2017's state portion). Meanwhile, we're willing to give hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to industry and businesses to move or expand here, saying it is good for the economy. The 5% Medicaid match is also good for the economy, and the payoff economically is likely greater in terms of new dollars circulating. For example, if the state ponies up $95 million in 2017, it will see over $1 billion flow into physician practices, hospitals, medical supply stores, etc.
    Obama last year in office is 2016, so Medicaid programs in 2017 will be someone else's call.