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Arkansas Legislature Passes Medicaid Expansion Program

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Arkansas House
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The Arkansas Legislature has passed a new version of its Medicaid expansion program.

The House voted 64-34 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 410, meaning it now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, where if signed, the bill will become law.

The state’s current plan, Arkansas Works, is set to sunset, or end, this year. The new plan, entitled the Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me or ARHOME, would retain the current private insurance model for purchasing health plans for participants. Unlike Arkansas Works, there is no work requirement.

Rep. Michelle Gray, R- Melbourne, presented the bill to the House floor.

"Even though I might disagree with some of the things that this does philosophically. Functionally, pragmatically for the state of Arkansas it makes sense for us. It works for us. We’ve had 57 hospitals between Arkansas and all our border states close in the last 10 years. Arkansas has only had had one of those 57," Gray said.

According to Gray, the bill is not the new program itself, but rather the framework for the waiver request that the state will make to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, was one of two lawmakers to speak against the legislation.

"You new guys are hearing 'If we don’t vote for this then our small hospitals are going to shut down.' Well you know what, there’s another bill. And Rep. [Josh] Miller, has another bill to do fee for service for everybody and let’s fix the system. Let’s raise the reimbursement rate so physicians can see our patients so we can have better health outcomes," Bentley said.

The House also voted to suspend the current face mask requirement in the House beginning on April 1. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a lifting of the statewide mask mandate on Tuesday.

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