Medicaid expansion hits roadblock in the House

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Tuesday was a big day at the Capitol in the fight over Medicaid expansion.

A proposal to use federal Medicaid dollars to fund private Arkansas health insurance won the support of an important House committee, but the chances for the proposal advancing took a hit as a key player in the House, Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, withdrew his name as a sponsor of the Medicaid private option legislation.

Westerman then took it a step farther Tuesday afternoon saying he wasn't just withdrawing support, he was now actively working against the bill.

That means the Republican Party is now split on the legislation. The Speaker of the House Davy Carter and Republican John Burris, a framer of the bill, will continue to support the legislation which is up for a vote on Thursday. Westerman admits he believes that bill will pass, but he might be able to stop the appropriation of money.

Westerman explains his reason for his withdrawal of support is his belief that the legislature is moving too fast.

"I think there's a lot of reasons to slow this down, but I know there's a push to do something here in the next couple of weeks and as the leader of the caucus and the majority leader, I had to make a decision so my people know where I'm at," explained Westerman.

Governor Mike Beebe, who has brokered parts of the private option plan with the federal government, said me he is disappointed with Westerman's decision and scoffed at Westerman's assessment that the bill moved too fast.

"I think we've been talking about this for months and months and months. You know, you don't get a redshirt year down here. If you can't read all this stuff and learn all this stuff, it's not going too fast for most of the other people," said Beebe.

It's likely the Carter has enough Republicans that will join the minority Democrats in voting for the private option legislation. If the numbers shape up as many expect, that bill will pass on Thursday.

However, the appropriation bill which funds the expansion that needs 75 votes to pass. Westerman believes that one could be defeated on the House floor on Friday.

Ark. 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)
Ark. panel OKs Medicaid money for private option (April 3)

Ark. Senate approves 'private option' proposal (April 5)
Medicaid expansion hits roadblock in the House (April 9)