By ANDREW DeMILLOAssociated Press
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Leaders of the Arkansas House and Senate say questions about the financial health and future of the state's Medicaid program will ultimately drive the agenda during this year's legislative session.
The Medicaid debate looms as the biggest issue facing lawmakers as they convene Monday for the 89th General Assembly. The session marks the first time in 138 years that Republicans will control the House and the Senate. It's also the last regular legislative session for Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.
Lawmakers are weighing how to deal with a $138 million shortfall in the state's Medicaid budget that officials have proposed addressing by cuts to several services. They're also considering a proposal to expand Medicaid's eligibility under the federal health care law.CONTINUING COVERAGEArk. Medicaid faces nearly $200M funding gap (Nov. 13)Ark. Medicaid faces 'significant' cuts in services (Nov. 13)Beebe: Medicaid expansion can spare nursing homes (Nov. 14)Ark. surgeon general addresses Medicaid expansion (Nov. 27)Beebe: Vote on Medicaid expansion during regular session (Jan. 3)Medicaid expansion hot topic leading up to general assembly (Jan. 7)Focus on Medicaid as Ark. session begins (Jan. 14)Beebe: Medicaid shortfall not as large as anticipated (Jan. 15)Ark. lawmakers seek more details on Medicaid (Jan. 17)Medicaid shortfall possibly $60 million less than expected (Jan. 17)Impact of Medicaid expansion on rural hospitals (Jan. 25)Ark. House GOP leader: Medicaid a work in progress (Jan. 28)Beebe: Don't delay Medicaid vote until next year (Feb. 11)Officials tout 'Medicaid contraction' (March 1)Ark. lawmakers approve contract on Medicaid (March 5)Ark. GOP leader floats special session on Medicaid (March 25)