Arkansas Medicaid-Private Insurance Measure Fails in House

An Arkansas proposal to use Medicaid money to buy private insurance for low-income residents failed in the state House.

Sixty-nine lawmakers voted for the legislation today, while 28 were opposed, short of the 75 votes needed for approval, said Cecillea Pond-Mayo, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas House of Representatives. House Speaker Davy Carter, a Republican, plans to call another vote on the measure tomorrow, she said.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, received informal approval on Feb. 18 from the federal government to use money for Medicaid expansion under President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul to instead buy private coverage.

“It’s a very tough vote because a lot of Republicans have been running for years against Obamacare,” said Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, a Little Rock-based research group that favors limited government and opposed the Arkansas legislation. “If the House turns it down, it is dead.”

Republican lawmakers in states including Florida and Tennessee have expressed interest in the plan, pending the Arkansas vote, Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors in Washington, said March 30.

The Arkansas Hospital Association favors the measure because it would provide more insurance coverage for the poor, said Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Little Rock-based hospital trade group.

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