House Votes on Private Option Funding Tuesday

(KATV) House Speaker Davy Carter said Thursday he will bring the vote of the Department of Human Services budget, which includes funding the private option on Tuesday.

Carter was sure to note that he was holding the vote Tuesday because many legislators had already planned to go home Friday. It was not because he needed the weekend to gather more votes.

Carter said negotiations are over and appropriations bill that made it out of the joint budget committee today would be the bill they send to the Senate. After it looked as though the funding for the private option could fail, Republican legislators brought forth several amendments changing the language and negotiating concerns. Carter called out the nine senators who have not been willing to negotiate.

"I am personally concerned that once that happens the negotiations are over. We've negotiated with everyone that's been willing to negotiate," Carter said. "You've got nine people in the senate that I don't know what they want. If the answer is they don't want anything then that's not a good answer."

John Selig, Director of the Department of Human Services said the private option was created to be an Arkansas-specific deal.

"These amendments just clarify that even further and say if we don't get what we want then we won't continue to have the program, but we feel pretty confident that what's in these amendments is doable," Selig said.

The changes include halting state spending on outreach for the health insurance marketplace, meaning no more advertising, promotion or trained guides paid for by the state.

The following three language amendments would have to be approved at the federal level by January of 2015, meaning the private option would live on for another year if it gets the votes.

One change would be ending the mandate for the state to provide non-emergency medical transportation for those under the private option.

Another language change would allow insurance companies to require co-pays or deductibles for those between 50 to 100 percent of the poverty level.{}

There would be health savings accounts established.

"I support it because I'm hearing positive results," said Sen. John Key. "It's worthwhile to continue, especially given the reforms we're seeing."

Key said most of those fights have been about how the advertising dollars are being used so the new language to ban state funds from promoting the health care exchange marketplace is just an extension from previous tension.

As for how the Senate would vote, Key said he was not going to speculate.

"I've been here long enough to know you don't really know what the votes are going to be until you open up the bill to be voted on. There's still a lot discussion going on both ends of the capitol, so I won't make any predictions, but we're having strong, vigorous discussions about it."

Key said it does address some issue of those who have been opposed.

"It's certainly reaching out to some of them to take care of some of the concerns they have voiced," he said.