Is Third Time the Charm for Arkansas Medicaid Expansion?

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Dr. Martha Perez examines Maria Lebron in a room at the Community Health of South Florida, Doris Ison Health Center on February 21, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed himself on February 20, and now is callling for an expansion of Medicaid to Florida residents under the federal Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Feb. 19, 2014, 12:49 p.m.

With cov­er­age for 100,000 res­id­ents on the line, neither the Arkan­sas House nor the Sen­ate wants to be the first to ap­prove con­tinu­ing the state’s Medi­caid ex­pan­sion plan.

The Le­gis­lature is wrapped up this week in de­bates over re­new­ing fund­ing for the state’s “private op­tion” pro­gram, which ac­cepts fed­er­al funds for Medi­caid ex­pan­sion un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act and uses them to buy private plans on the ex­change.

The House voted 68-27 to ap­prove the fund­ing Wed­nes­day, but it was sev­en votes short of pas­sage. This fol­lowed a 70-27 House vote Tues­day.

Arkan­sas re­quires a 75 per­cent ap­prov­al to pass spend­ing bills, leav­ing the le­gis­la­tion in a kind of limbo un­til one side can muster a su­per­ma­jor­ity. Votes are con­tinu­ing this week un­til a few mem­bers cave.

Both the House and Sen­ate likely have the votes to ul­ti­mately pass the amended “private op­tion” plan, but each wants to wait for the oth­er to go first, ac­cord­ing to the Arkan­sas Times. Both cham­bers were ori­gin­ally sched­uled to vote on the bill Wed­nes­day, but the Sen­ate post­poned its vote.

“We’re just go­ing to wait on the House,” Sen­ate Pres­id­ent Pro Tem Mi­chael Lam­oureux said. “Just one more day. We’re not in any par­tic­u­lar hurry.”

Sen­ate lead­ers say they have the ne­ces­sary 27 votes to ap­prove the bill once it comes to a vote, though noth­ing can be cer­tain with such a nar­row mar­gin.

Mean­while, some say enough House mem­bers would flip their vote to ap­prove the bill, once it is passed in the Sen­ate. Re­pub­lic­an House Speak­er Davy Carter has said the House will con­tin­ue vot­ing un­til the bill is passed.

The Sen­ate is sched­uled to vote on the private op­tion Thursday morn­ing, with the House fol­low­ing in the af­ter­noon.

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