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Arkansas Senate Votes To Approve Medicaid Expansion, Bill Now Goes To House

Arkansas Senate

The Arkansas Senate has passed a bill that would implement a new Medicaid expansion program in place of the current Arkansas Works program.

By a vote of 26-3 with four members voting present, the Arkansas Senate passed Senate Bill 410 on Tuesday. The legislation would create the Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me or ARHOME Act. 

According to Talk Business and Politics, the proposed program, which was introduced in early March, keeps the current private insurance model for purchasing plans like the private option for the Arkansas Works program did.

The proposed legislation eliminates the previous work requirement, which is currently being challenged in court. Instead, according to the legislation, the Governor is allowed to request a waiver for a work requirement "as soon as practical if the federal law or regulations change to allow the approval of the waiver."

In explaining the legislation, bill sponsor Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said ARHOME is designed to both provide healthcare coverage and address "long-standing health issues in our state."

“It is intentionally designed to serve Arkansans, to be good stewards of our taxpayers’ money and to be accountable for the outcomes we desire to make the state a better place for our citizens,” Irvin said. 

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, spoke against the legislation, instead speaking in favor of a “fee for service” Medicaid system. 

"We need to move on from this failed experiment and adopt real healthcare changes that will help the most needy, while saving the tax-payers millions," Garner said. 

Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, spoke in favor of the legislation, saying that he was wrong when he initially was against the idea of Medicaid expansion when it first passed.

"I am glad that Arkansas found a path forward. It stabilized our commercial insurance market. It kept our hospitals open. I appreciate those who have worked in this session to find a path forward. It’s the real solution that we need," Hendren said. 

After the Senate advanced the legislation, Gov. Asa Hutchinson released a statement saying “This new initiative will assure continued health care coverage for over 300,000 Arkansans with accountability measures in place to improve maternal health, drug addiction support and mental illness.”

The bill now goes to the Arkansas House.

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