Apparently, fifth time's the charm in Arkansas. That's how many times it took to reauthorize its first-in-the-nation private option to expand Medicaid. On Tuesday, the House approved the bill, which now goes to Gov. Mike Beebe (D) for his expected signature.
Only a few weeks ago, Arkansas House lawmakers rejected the bill to extend the private option. To obtain enough votes, private option supporters amended the original plan, including prohibiting the use of state funds to promote the Affordable Care Act--even to boost enrollment in private option plans or motivate consumers to sign up for the health insurance exchange, reported the National Journal.
Calling Medicaid expansion "one of the most divisive issues that our country has seen in a long, long time," House Speaker Davy Carter (R) told reporters after the vote that he hopes "the rest of the country's watching, because Arkansas has tackled this issue together better than anyone else," the Associated Press reported.
However, the program only received a one-year extension and there's no guarantee about its future. Rep. Kim Hammer (R), who reversed his vote to help pass the bill, said he would likely oppose the private option next year if it doesn't fulfill its advocates' promises.
Other GOP legislators continue to question the private option, fearing Arkansas can't afford the 10 percent in costs it would eventually have to contribute toward Medicaid. Rep. Joe Farrer (R) who voted against the bill, questioned how the state will pay for the program in three, five or even 10 years from now, the AP noted.