Possible Compromise Would End Private Option Promotion

- LITTLE ROCK, AR - A joint legislative committee approved a plan to end advertising and promotion of Arkansas' private option but still keep the health care expansion program in operation.

The amendment was proposed by state representative Nate Bell, R-Mena, as an alternative to allow passage of the private option but limit growth of a program Bell feels is an entitlement program.

"It's a barrier to enrollment, that's what we're trying to create here," Bell says. "I don't want anybody to vote for this under any other illusion. This is intended in every way possible to keep the program from growing."

The private option has enrolled over 100,000 Arkansans since October.  Health care coverage started in January.

The amendment passed the Special Language subcommittee and still has to pass the Joint Budget Committee on Thursday.

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, says he can sense colleagues on both sides of the private option are not happy with the amendment but understand the reality of not having the needed 75-percent support for any way forward.

"It's my intention for the House to pass a bill and send it to the Senate and if we want nine people to shutdown the government then that's up to those nine people," Carter says. "But we're going to pass a bill out of this House and we're going to send it to the Senate. Personally, this is as far as I'm going. The negotiations are over with me."

Senate president Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, says the proposed changes may allow the $915 million appropriation pass in the House.

"Nothing has changed in the Senate," Lamoureux says. "We won't know exactly where we're at until we take a vote, most likely on Tuesday."

The appropriation needs 75 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate to continue the Medicaid health care expansion in Arkansas beyond June 30th.

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