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Arkansas House Sends Medicaid Approval to Governor

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

March 4, 2014 -- The Arkansas House voted last week to send to Gov. Mike Beebe a reauthorization of the state's expanded Medicaid program known as the "private option."

The House voted 76–24 to authorize a funding measure expanding Medicaid by using marketplace insurance. The measure needed a supermajority of at least 75 votes in the House. The Senate last month endorsed the legislation.

Beebe, a Democrat, has been pressing the House to send him the bill. However, previous votes fell short of the 75 total needed for passage.

Supporters of the expansion had predicted that eventually the state legislature would decide to keep the program in place. Arkansas was the first state to get approval to use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for many beneficiaries through the new marketplaces created by the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). Federal officials also approved a similar plan in Iowa and are currently in negotiations with other states that want to follow that type of approach.

About 105,000 people are enrolled in the program, said a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services last week. That includes 93,966 who completed the enrollment process as of Feb. 23 who will get their coverage through the marketplace coverage, and another 11,595 people who will get their coverage through the fee-for-service Medicaid program. Many of those who will use the fee-for-service program have serious medical conditions.

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