Tuesday, April 9, 2013

UPDATE: House committee endorses Medicaid expansion bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 10:44 AM

THE TIME IS NOW: Rep. John Burris.
  • THE TIME IS NOW: Rep. John Burris.
Republican Rep. John Burris is before the House Public Health Committee he chairs this morning to urge approval of the Medicaid expansion legislation. Moving now is vital to avoid losing participation in the expanded federal support provided under Obamacare in the 2014 calendar year. He repeats his mantra: It's an opportunity for Arkansas to lead in "conservative, market-based health care reform."

Good question from Rep. Justin Harris: What happens if Obamacare, even through a private option, doesn't work and Arkansas shuts it down, as the bill allows. What happens to people now on conventional Medicaid, who're moved to a new private option plan while conventional Medicaid is reduced?

Burris said he's concerned, too. And says that's why it's important to get things right now. But, in terms of a specific solution for that population ....

He said there were strong arguments against going forward, but Arkansas had a chance to transform federal "entitlement" programs by its example.

UPDATE: The committee, which has a Democratic majority, gave the bill a do-pass on a voice vote. The vote followed an amendment by Republican House leader Rep. Bruce Westerman to remove his name from the bill. He complained that the legislature was rushing on the bill. No doubt that the House can muster a majority to pass the legislation, given the bare 51-vote majority in the House. The pregnant question is appropriating the money, which will take 75 votes, particularly now that Majority Leader Westerman has defected. In the course of giving a companion endorsement to identical Senate legislation, Burris emphasized that, though the DHS budget contains excess money beyond existing Medicaid needs, the expansion wouldn't go forward without specific appropriation approval.

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