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Speaker Carter unsure of how to solve ‘Private Option’ political impasse

story from Talk Business, a TCW content partner

Still two votes shy of a supermajority in the Arkansas House, Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) says he is unsure of what potential change may secure the additional votes needed to pass the private option.

Appearing on this week’s Talk Business & Politics, which now airs Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. on KATV Channel 7, Carter said that limiting the enrollment period for people to sign up for the subsidized health insurance offerings may not be the breakthrough solution.

“If that’s something that’s involved in the final resolution of the matter, I can’t say for sure right now,” said Carter.

In week one of the 2014 fiscal session, Carter has managed to secure 73 votes for funding the private option, which has already cleared the State Senate.  The funding bill needs 75 votes to gain passage in the House. Last week, Carter called off daily votes on the bill in order to find a solution from any of the 27 House members opposing the private option.

Carter said he remains “100% confident” that the private option will eventually pass the House, but he said the possibility of limiting enrollment has not secured any changes in the “no” votes from members opposed to funding the plan.

“I can’t say I’m 100% sure that that will be a part of the solution,” Carter said.

The Republican-led legislature crafted the private option in conjunction with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe as an alternative to straight Medicaid expansion allowed by the Affordable Care Act. Arkansas’ plan, which was approved by the federal government and passed into law in the 2013 session, allows Medicaid dollars to be used to subsidize private health insurance plans in an exchange where lower-income workers can shop for health coverage.

When asked if a vote would occur on a Department of Human Services budget or Medicaid budget without private option funding included, Carter said he did not foresee that happening.

“That has not been the will of the chamber to do so,” he said. “The reality is there aren’t 51 members to approve the amendment or perhaps to even take it back on second reading.”

When pressed by Talk Business & Politics host Roby Brock on whether the Republican-controlled legislature could go home without a DHS or Medicaid budget, Carter said that’s not a possibility.

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“We’re not going to do that. At the end of the day, we’re going to get this resolved. The people of Arkansas should have some comfort in that. And I will say this: even the ones who are still opposing the measure – even up to this day – are beginning to come and recognize that that’s not a good option, so I don’t see there’s a chance of that happening.”

Link here for the video interview with Carter.

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