KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Arkansas House Votes To Fund Medicaid Expansion Private Option

The measure, which extended for one year this "private" approach to expanding health insurance coverage to low-income state residents, failed in four previous votes. Its opponents say the debate is not over -- they are just "hitting the pause button."   

Arkansas News: House Approves Funding For Private Option
The private option is Arkansas’ alternative to the expansion of state Medicaid rolls that was proposed under the federal Affordable Care Act. The state obtained permission from the federal government to use the federal Medicaid money that would have gone to state Medicaid expansion to subsidize private health insurance for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. About 94,000 people have enrolled in private plans through the program, and another 11,000 who applied have been enrolled in traditional Medicaid because that program is more suited to their needs, according to the state Department of Human Services. About 105,000 people have applied since the program launched in October (Lyon, 3/4).

KUAR: Arkansas House Passes Private Option On 5th Vote
State Representatives Kim Hammer of Saline County, Mary Slinkard of Gravette and Les Carnine of Rogers reversed their positions and voted yes on the appropriation bill. On the House floor, Hammer explained his new stance. He said through the private option, those with “honorable needs” and those who are “probably just trying to build their welthfare portfolio” are likely part of the mix of healthcare recipients. “But for me to point and to say which ones that are and which ones that aren't, I can't do that. But I do know this: there are people that are going to be hurt if I don't vote for this,” he said (Hickey, 3/4). 

The New York Times: Arkansas House Votes To Extend Health Insurance Program
The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Tuesday to let the state keep taking federal money for the expansion of Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law and using it to buy private insurance for poor people. The measure, which failed in four previous votes, extended coverage for another year under the so-called private option, which the state’s Republican-controlled legislature devised last year as a politically acceptable alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid. Nearly 100,000 people have enrolled in the coverage so far, which allows them to choose among plans offered by four companies on the state’s new health insurance exchange (Goodnough, 3 4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ark. Medicaid Plan Opponents Hit Pause On Fight
Ending a budget standoff reminiscent of the fight that shuttered the federal government last year, Arkansas lawmakers have spared the state’s first-in-the nation plan to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. But opponents said they’re merely hitting the pause button on debating a program that has extended health coverage to nearly 94,000 people (3/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Arkansas Lawmakers Pass 'Private Option' Health-Care Law
Arkansas last fall became the first state to offer a "private option" to extend coverage to lower-income residents, the result of a compromise between state Republicans and Democrats over how to implement a crucial provision of the health law. The program, endorsed by the Obama administration, was seen by supporters in Arkansas as a way to accept federal dollars and cut the number of uninsured residents without enlarging Medicaid (Campoy and Radnofsky, 3/4).

Reuters: Arkansas Lawmakers Vote To Fund State's Alternative To Obamacare 
The Arkansas House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to fund the state's so-called "Private Option" medical insurance program that has drawn interest from lawmakers in other states as an alternative to Obamacare. The measure, which had earlier passed the state Senate, received 76 votes, one more than necessary in the 100-member House (Barnes, 3/4).

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