In October, Arkansas became the first state to implement the private option to expand Medicaid, but this week state lawmakers rejected legislation that would continue the public-private program.
Using Medicaid funds to buy private insurance as a way to expand Medicaid has become a hot political issue in Arkansas since lawmakers initially approved it. That led to the Arkansas House of Representatives falling five votes short to approve the bill, reported the Wall Street Journal.
If Arkansas lawmakers don't pass the expansion reauthorization, it could bolster other state leaders who oppose the healthcare reform law in Iowa and Ohio, for example, to similarly discontinue their private option expansion. It also could affect decisions in other states, including Pennsylvania and Tennessee, that have been on the fence about implementing the private option.
Not everyone thinks the Arkansas private option is dead in the water. House Speaker Davy Carter plans to schedule another vote, predicting it will eventually pass before the March 19 deadline. "I believe it's important as a conservative that we recognize the situation we're in," he said, the National Journal reported. "When we can't defeat bad policy, it's our responsibility to do everything we can to influence it and make it as closely aligned with our philosophy and policy as we can."
Meanwhile, Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman has been cautioning other states considering similar private option approaches to expanding Medicaid. He warned Virginia lawmakers, who are debating whether and how to expand Medicaid, against following in his state's footsteps, saying Arkansas has buyer's remorse about approving its Medicaid private option, reported the Associated Press.
"It's going to be sold to you as it's free money from Washington, D.C.," Westerman told the AP. "It is money from Washington, D.C., but you know as well as I do it's not free."