Upcoming primary election casts shadow over private option vote

LITTLE ROCK Gov. Mike Beebe was extolling the benefits of the so-called private option for expanding health insurance coverage last week when a reporter asked him why winning legislative support for the program does not seem to be any easier now than it was in the 2013 legislative session.

"It should be. I don't know," Beebe said. "You'll have to ask them. I can speculate, as I expect you can, but I'm not going to."

A factor that the governor may have been too discreet to name is election-year politics. The fiscal session that begins Feb. 10 will be followed by a May 20 primary election in which Arkansas' program to use federal Medicaid money to provide private insurance to the working poor is sure to be an issue in some Republican races.

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