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Health Care Advances, Loses Key Supporter at Capitol

An Arkansas House committee advances legislation expanding health care Tuesday, while a leading Republican announced he is no longer supporting the bill.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - An Arkansas House committee advances legislation expanding health care Tuesday, while a leading Republican announced he is no longer supporting the bill.

HB 1143 creates the "private option", placing approximately 250,000 uninsured Arkansans on private health insurance, as opposed to state run Medicaid.

Representative John Burris, R-Harrison, told the House Public Health Committee approving the legislation would avert many of what he considers the negative effects of the Affordable Health Care Act.

"It's written about as strictly about as you could possibly do so under the circumstances that we're in," Burris says.

But simultaneously a key co-sponsor, representative Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, filed an amendment removing his name from the legislation he now says he's actively opposing.

"I think we need to slow down, let this bill air out a little bit, we need to vet it some more," Westerman says.

The legislation advanced Tuesday requires only a simple majority when it comes before the House, likely on Wednesday. But another bill appropriating funding for health care expansion requires 75% in both chambers.

Governor Mike Beebe told reporters he was not surprised that Westerman dropped his support for the legislation, but that it might have an impact.

"It's a vote and to the extent he influences any other votes, it's not good," Beebe says.
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