Some very good news for the people of Arkansas, and other states that may follow in their footsteps…
The Arkansas State House of Representatives has finally approved funding for the ‘Private Option’ with a vote of 76 to 22. They passed the exact version of the State Senate’s bill, which was approved with much less drama. Here’s more from Gavin Lesnick of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette…
The state House of Representatives has passed funding to continue Arkansas’s private option Medicaid expansion, approving the bill after four attempts last month came up short.
The House voted 76-24 Tuesday in favor of the Senate version, which passed on its first try last month. It will next go to Gov. Mike Beebe.
It was the fifth vote for the private option bill in the House. No previous attempt got more than 72 votes.
Beebe said he was “obviously” pleased by the vote, which he said should have been an easier process than when legislators narrowly approved the private option last year. This time around, they had approval of the program from the federal government and a host of tax cuts passed based on its savings, he said.
“If anything, it was even more compelling this time to do it than it was last time — not to mention the fact you’d be throwing 100,000 people off healthcare” if it didn’t pass, he said.
House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, who expressed optimism the bill would ultimately pass even as it fell short in previous attempts, applauded legislators for the passage.
“I think the story is about a lot of things and one is it’s about political courage,” he said. “I truly do believe this is an example set for the rest of the country.”
The vote came after several speeches on the floor for and against the bill.
Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, announced he would vote for the bill after previously opposing it.
“There are people who will be hurt if I don’t vote for this,” Hammer said. “And I don’t want to see those innocent people hurt because of that.”
Hammer — who joined Reps. Les “Skip” Carnine and Mary Lou Slinkard in switching to yes votes — said he had not “betrayed” opponents of the bill and would not shy from voting against it next year if the program is not successful.
Kudos to Governor Beebe and House Speaker Davy Carter on what has surely been a difficult fight. On a personal note… my mother, stepfather and several of my friends and family are constituents of Representative Kim Hammer in Benton, Arkansas. Besides sending several tweets that mentioned Mr. Hammer, I spoke to a few family members that are his constituents (some of them directly affected if the Private Option was dropped) and asked them to call him regarding his vote.
Whose to say if their actions had a direct impact on his decision, but from his answer here, it sounds like he changed his vote because constituents reached out to him and voiced their concerns. It just goes to show you that sometimes communicating with lawmakers really can make all the difference.
Now that the inner political drama is done, let’s hope that other states (like the one to the immediate south and west, perhaps) will take a second look at the ‘Private Option’ as a possible solution to their growing healthcare challenges.