LITTLE ROCK — The Senate voted Tuesday to continue funding Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program for another year.
In a 27-1 vote, the Senate approved Senate Bill 196 by the Joint Budget Committee, which as an appropriation bill required a three-fourths vote to pass, or 27 votes in the 35-member Senate. The bill goes to the House.
The bill failed in two Senate votes Monday.
More than 300,000 low-income Arkansans are on government-subsidized private health insurance under the Medicaid expansion program, formerly known as the private option and now known as Arkansas Works. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is pursuing waivers from President Donald Trump’s administration to allow the state to impose restrictions the governor says will help control the program’s size and cost and help people move up the economic ladder.
The program was created as Arkansas’ alternative to the expansion of Medicaid rolls envisioned in the Affordable Care Act. Trump campaigned on promises to repeal and replace the law, but a recent attempt failed to win support in the U.S. House.
Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, who cast the only vote against SB 196 Tuesday, said on the Senate floor the Medicaid expansion program is unsustainable.
“The credit card on (the Department of Human Services) and Medicaid spending is going up and up, and we need to stop this because it’s hurting all of state government,” he said.
Hutchinson said in a statement Tuesday, “I didn’t expect any problems this session, but I’m pleased that all of the appropriations bills are going through smoothly. Furthermore, I’m delighted with the support of Arkansas Works and the reform efforts it includes.”