Health exchange bill clears committee | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 28, 2011

Health exchange bill clears committee

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Jay Bradford, the insurance commissioner, made a final run this morning before a House committee to advocate legislation to set up insurance exchanges in Arkansas to implement federal health legislation. The alternative is to let the Obama administration run the exchanges from Washington. It received a favorable vote, 11-7, drawing the minimum 11 votes required for a "do-pass" recommendation. It fell one vote short last week.

The Democratic Party was prepared to declare victory either way. It excoriated Republicans on the commitee in advance for voting last week for Obamacare, or Washington control of Arkansas health coverage decisions.

The debate was delayed to allow time for all members to be in place. The vote came after 30 minutes of the familiar arguments. Rep. Keith Ingram provided the decisive vote, after not voting Friday.


n a surprising departure from their rhetoric, Arkansas Republican legislators took a step towards federal control of a mandated Arkansas health care exchange in a party line vote, Friday. The questions remains: will Republicans solidify federal control of Arkansas’s pending health care exchange in the legislature this week?

“You just can’t trust today’s Republicans in Arkansas. Once again their actions don’t match their words,” Democratic Party of Arkansas spokesperson Candace Martin said. “In a party-line vote, Republicans prevented Arkansas controlling its own mandated health care exchange, instead preferring for the federal government to control the health care exchange in Arkansas. If Democrats again bring up a bill for state control of the health care exchange, will Republican legislators again vote for federal health care control in Little Rock while denouncing it back home in their districts?”

The legislation, House Bill 2138 by Rep. Fred Allen (D) failed by one vote in the House Insurance and Commerce Committee where it is expected to be brought up again.

Those voting for federal control rather than Arkansas control of the mandated health care exchange included:
Rep. John Woods (R)
Rep. Bryan King (R)
Rep. Les “Skippy” Carnine (R)
Rep. Terry Rice (R)
Rep. Mark Bivivano (R)
Bruce Westerman (R)
Allen Kerr (R)

“Will these seven Republican legislators give the federal government and Washington control of an Arkansas health care exchange, or will they reverse themselves and keep more Arkansas health care in the hands of Arkansans?” Martin asked.

The legislation in question outlines how Arkansas regulators would structure rate reviews and create insurance exchanges required under federal law. Sufficient progress in state implementation must be made by a January 2013 deadline if the state is to control the health care exchange. However, if Republicans again defeat the bill they will ensure federal administrators will set Arkansas' health exchange and rate review rules.

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