UPDATE: House approves Medicaid expansion | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 11, 2013

UPDATE: House approves Medicaid expansion

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 3:04 PM


After more than an hour of earnest debate, the House approved enabling legislation to expand the state Medicaid program through increasing the number covered by federally paid private health insurance.

The vote was 62-37 and one present.

Only a majority was required for passage of the bill, which has already passed the Senate. The appropriation bill to spend the money will require 75 votes, of which today's vote fell well short. But the debate included some hints that at least some voters were candidates for a positive vote in the future. The battle will continue, what's uncertain if whether it will be decided tomorrow or following the weekend, when some legislators say they want to meet with constituents first.

The Senate also fell short of the 75 percent level, by three votes, in its approval of enabling legislation. And there were some indications today of some wobbling on the part of senators who'd been counted on for support.

The fight continues.

Here's the roll call. though it lists Altes and Holcomb as not voting, they were voted manually as paired ballots because of Holcomb's absence — Holcomb for and Altes against. Republican Karen Hopper voted present.

Here are the other no votes, all Republicans:

Alexander Ballinger Barnett Bell Branscum Carnine
Clemmer Cozart Dale Deffenbaugh Dotson D. Douglas
C. Douglas Eubanks Farrer Fite Gossage Hammer
Harris Hickerson Hobbs Hutchison Jean Kerr
Linck S. Malone Mayberry D. Meeks S. Meeks Miller
Payton Rice Scott Slinkard Westerman Womack

The House later approved the Senate version of the same bill 63-35 and one present, a pickup of one aye — Branscum. Kerr also moved into the not voting column. That left twelve needed for passage of the appropriation. Current conventional wisdom is that supporters count 71 to 73 votes for the appropriation and no one seemed terribly concerned by falling 12 short today.

John Burris said, "I think there were people that for whatever reason were going to vote for the appropriation and not the bill itself. I'm not quite sure why. But that was always understood. I think it'll be a higher vote total than it was today." He said he understood a desire by some to go home to talk further to constituents, but added, "We're under a timeline here that really can't change. I hope that doesn't cost a vote for such a long program." He said voters sent legislators to Little Rock to make a decision " ... and if you feel like you made the correct one, I just feel like people are understanding and if you can go home and explain it intelligently, I don't know that it matters if it happens before a vote or after."


The House shortly before 2 p.m. began discussions of the bill, HB 1143, to allow Arkansas to expand its Medicaid budget under President Obama's health care initiative through a "private option" approach.

The lead sponsor, Republican Rep. John Burris of Harrison, opened by running through now familiar talking points: Arkansas is better served by taking the shape of the program into its own hands. Not acting will bring instability in the economy and state budget. The existing system isn't working.

Nutty as fringe Republican gubernatorial candidate Curtis Coleman is, I think his news release issued at the start of debate cuts through the fog of technical questions to the core issue for the holdouts among the Republican delegation to providing the needed 75 votes in the House:

A plan to use more federal Medicaid money to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance, nicknamed the ‘private option,’ is still fundamentally an expansion of Medicaid and therefore an expansion of the size and cost of government.

Good for Arkansas people. Good for Arkansas business. A bonanza in federal money that can be channeled to other parts of the state budget. But yes, an expansion in the cost of government.

By the way, to cover his defection as a sponsor, Westerman filed an amendment today to rewrite the bill more to his liking. Far too complicated to be meaningful at this late hour, seems to me, and a bit ludicrous to talk about medical savings account for people in deep poverty. But here it is, for the record.

Rep. Charlies Collins in speaking FOR the bill said he hated Obamacare. He said the situation was "nasty, horrible, sickening." But he said the clock couldn't be turned back. Elections didn't provide the means to overturn the law and now was the time to strike the best bargain possible with Obamacare. He said Arkansas's proposal provided a "stunning" level of waiver from federal rules. Democrats John Edwards and Stephen Magie and George McGill and Mark McElroy also spoke for the bill. Also Republican Doug House.

Speaking against, all Republicans: David Meeks. His concerns include wanting guarantees that poor people will have to pay meaningful co-pays and that doctors get sufficient reimbursements. Republican Majority Leader Bruce Westerman had a prepared speech, which he read from. He said he supported a permanent plan for improvement of Medicaid, but the pending legislation wasn't a palatable solution. He said there hasn't been sufficient independent analysis of the proposal and the state remained unprotected against congressional whims. Andy Mayberry said he was for the bill but would vote against it. He said people need more time to fully understand the alternative that is being offered. Josh Miller said he feared the bill just "kicked the can down the road" and that it might be "putting Old Spice on a skunk." Kim Hammer said he had lost a feeling of trust in the last few hours because of a need to pass a law to require a health care provider to do the right thing and by defeat of a health bill he favored. He said he'd vote no to get some trust back. Justin Harris, who makes a living off federal subsidies of his church daycare, spoke against the health care subsidies. Another no, Stephen Meeks. He said establishment of the program will create the expectation that it will always be there.

Nate Bell said he'd vote against today's bill because he wants to have a meeting with constituents this weekend. But he said he might vote for the appropriation bill, where the 75 votes are needed, if his feedback is good and there's a vote next week. The plan has been to vote on appropriation Friday.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (11)

Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-11 of 11

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • The assault weapon open line

    The open line. And report of the arrest of a man with an AR-15 who threatened to shoot people at a Springdale business.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A primary challenger for Rep. Laurie Rushing

    Blue Hog Report has some news on a Republican primary challenge of an incumbent legislator, Rep. Laurie Rushing, by Ernie Hinz of Hot Springs.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • A common-sense gun measure draws no sponsors from Arkansas

    Republicans, including at least one from Arkansas, are talking about repealing the Dickey Amendment which prohibits gun research from a public health perspective. But none of them are yet willing to DO anything about it.
    • Feb 17, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The long and winding road: No exception yet for 30 Crossing

    The Arkansas highway department's representative on the Metroplan board of directors told the board today that the department is requesting an exception to the planning agency's cap on six lanes for its 30 Crossing project to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 (and more) lanes.
    • Jun 29, 2016
  • Mitch Landrieu on the removal of Confederate tributes in New Orleans

    You want to hear the words of a strong mayor? Read the speech delivered by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the removal of the last of four Lost Cause tributes in the city. THIS is a strong mayor. Brilliant.
    • May 22, 2017
  • 'Million-Dollar Thursday': A visit to Sherwood's hot check court

    We take a visit to the weekly hot check court in Sherwood District Court, the subject of a recent civil rights lawsuit filed by ACLU Arkansas and others, who say the system there results in a modern-day debtor's prison
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation