Arkansas Medicaid Impasse Hits New Heights

Insurance for nearly 100,000 people is on the line, but — for now — the state’s anti-Obamacare critics aren’t budging.

National Journal
Sophie Novack
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Sophie Novack
Feb. 21, 2014, 8:10 a.m.

The Arkan­sas House has voted four times this week on a bill to re­new the state’s Medi­caid ex­pan­sion pro­gram, and it’s  not done yet.

The le­gis­la­tion failed to reach the needed su­per­ma­jor­ity in the House for the fourth time on Fri­day. The 71-18 vote came up four short of the needed three-quar­ters threshold to pass spend­ing bills in the Le­gis­lature.

At ques­tion is the Arkan­sas “private op­tion,” which takes fed­er­al funds for Medi­caid ex­pan­sion un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act and ap­plies them to private ex­change plans for low-in­come in­di­vidu­als.

The Sen­ate passed the bill Thursday on a 27-8 vote.

If the le­gis­la­tion fails, the nearly 100,000 Arkansans who have already en­rolled in the pro­gram will lose their cov­er­age after June 30.

The fund­ing for the private op­tion is part of the lar­ger ap­pro­pri­ations bill for the state’s Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment, so the broad­er pack­age ul­ti­mately has to pass at some point. But it could pass without fund­ing for the Medi­caid plan, and that fund­ing will be left be­hind if one fac­tion of state Re­pub­lic­ans get their way.

Law­makers on both sides re­main con­fid­ent that the private-op­tion fund­ing will be re­newed even­tu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the Arkan­sas Times. But not be­fore a series of failed votes and a heavy dose of le­gis­lat­ive drama.

The mar­gin of ap­prov­al to re­new the private op­tion is so razor-thin that mem­bers were scram­bling to find the ne­ces­sary votes even as the speeches went on. The House re­cessed sev­er­al times Thursday af­ter­noon as ne­go­ti­ations con­tin­ued.

At one point, state po­lice were sent to fetch a rep­res­ent­at­ive who left the floor ahead of the vote.

Re­pub­lic­an House Speak­er Davy Carter has said law­makers will con­tin­ue vot­ing un­til the bill is passed. A fifth vote is sched­uled for Tues­day af­ter­noon.

What We're Following See More »
Byrd Rule Could Trip Up Health Legislation
20 hours ago

"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”

Senate Votes To Fund Government
23 hours ago
House Passes Spending Bill
1 days ago

The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.

Puerto Rico Another Sticking Point in Budget Talks
1 days ago

President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."

Democrats Threaten Spending Bill Over Obamacare
1 days ago

Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.