On a fifth and final effort, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a funding measure for the private option health insurance program. The bill passed the House by a 76-24 margin.
In week one of the session, House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) called for votes on the private option on four different days. The funding measure never cleared the 75% vote threshold needed for passage. In week two, Carter adopted a different tactic choosing to meet with members to negotiate possible changes to secure the additional votes needed for the proposal.
Two weeks ago, the State Senate passed its version of the funding bill (SB 111), 27-8, with no votes to spare.
Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) had opposed the measure previously, but he spoke for the bill on Tuesday (March 4) outlining several of his reasons for changing his position. “There will be people who are hurt if I don’t vote for this. I don’t want to do that,” Hammer said, implying that lower income workers would benefit from continuation of the program.
Hammer also said he would vote against the measure next January if the private option did not meet “measurable success.”
Two other House members – Rep. Les Carnine (R- Rogers) and Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard (R-Gravette) – both voted yes for the first time in the 2014 fiscal session.
With passage in the House, the bill now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe for signature. The Governor supports the private option, which takes federal Medicaid expansion money provided by the Affordable Care Act and allows it to be used to subsidize private health insurance plans for lower income workers.