House to go first on private option reauthorization; could be on budget panel’s agenda Wednesday


LITTLE ROCK — The House will move forward on its vote to reauthorize the private option while the Senate continues to look for enough votes for passage, legislative leaders said Tuesday.

The Joint Budget Committee could consider as early as Wednesday House Bill 1150 by House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, for the budget for the state Department of Human Services’ Division of Medical Services, including the private option.

“There’s not a set-in-stone plan at this very moment but it looks like we’re probably going to have some discussions as early as (Wednesday) in committee,” Carter said Tuesday evening.

He said he wants to see the bill before the full House by the end of the week, “if possible.”

Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, told reporters he met with Carter on Tuesday afternoon and the House speaker “is wanting it sooner than later … at least in the budget committee, to talk about getting a vote and maybe even the House going first, then the Senate.”

The fiscal session began Monday and the most contentious budget issue before lawmakers is reauthorization of the private option, Arkansas’ alternative to adding thousands to the Medicaid rolls by using federal money to provide private insurance to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The measure needs support by at least three-fourths of the 100-member House and the 35-member Senate because it is an appropriation bill.

The House passed the proposal last year with two votes to spare. The Senate approved the plan with an extra vote but two members have said they will vote against it this time around — one of them a member who voted for it last year but who has said she has changed her mind and the other a newly elected member who opposed the private option.

Lamoureux said it might be a good idea for the House to vote first because he still lacks the necessary 27 votes in the Senate to reauthorize the private option.

“Still looking for votes,” he said.

Lamoureux met with the Senate privately after Tuesday’s Senate session to gauge their support for the private option and to update some on what the plan was for running the bill.

“You know how big that committee is,” he said about the Budget Committee. “A lot of times its only the people that are kind of in charge know what’s going on there and a couple of people asked me questions and I just finally said, ‘why don’t we just get everybody together and let (the budget chairman) go over all of what he is doing.’”