- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - House Speaker Davy Carter said Monday his chamber is preparing for another likely vote on the future of Arkansas’ compromise Medicaid expansion, as he raised the possibility of lawmakers recessing or adjourning if the program’s future remains stalled.

Carter said the House would likely vote for a fifth time Tuesday on legislation to reauthorize the “private option” that was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law. Nearly 94,000 low-income Arkansas residents are receiving private insurance paid for with federal Medicaid funds through the program.

The program’s future has been in doubt after failing four times last month to receive the 75 votes needed in the 100-member House. The Senate has already voted to continue the program.

“It’s just time to get this addressed and resolved,” Carter, R-Cabot, told reporters.

Carter said two possibilities if the legislation fails before the House again include recessing the session, or adjourning and leaving the matter to be addressed in a special session. He said, however, he didn’t expect either scenario.

“I would suspect there would be some - potentially some - lengthy recess of some sort, a special session. I really don’t know,” Carter said. “There are a handful of options out there that we would just have to deal with if we got to that point. I don’t think we’ll get to that point.”

Carter and other supporters of the private option have been talking with a handful of opponents about a potential compromise where they would vote for the program in exchange for the state agreeing to seek federal approval for a limited enrollment period for the program. Carter said no agreement had been reached but he was still talking with several lawmakers.

The enrollment limit has been floated as a way to help control growth in the private option. Rep. Kim Hammer, one of the opponents who has been discussing the idea, said he remained open-minded about that possibility.

“I think open enrollment still needs to be on the table for discussion because one of the genuine concerns everyone has is, long term, what the cost is going to be?” Hammer, R-Benton, said. “And if it turns out to be more than what the actuaries estimate or what the numbers indicate, what are we going to do to control it and manage it?”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo .


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