LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe and legislative leaders inched closer Tuesday to agreement on plans to lessen the impact of soaring insurance premiums for teachers and other public school personnel.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe and legislative leaders inched closer Tuesday to agreement on plans to lessen the impact of soaring insurance premiums for teachers and other public school personnel.

Beebe met with lawmakers for two and one-half hours behind closed doors Tuesday and afterward said a tentative agreement had been reached on a short-term solution that calls for the Legislature to transfer $42 million from the state’s surplus to prop up the insurance program for 2014. The infusion would limit the increase in insurance premiums to 10 percent next year rather than the nearly 50 percent recommended by the Employee Benefits Division in August.

As for a long-term solution, Beebe said details are still being worked out.

Proposals being circulated among legislators to limit future increases in insurance premiums include dividing the insurance costs between the state, school districts and teachers — it’s now split between districts and teachers — and a number of structural modifications, including preferred-rate premiums for non-tobacco users and for people participating in wellness plans; and requiring deductibles for all plans. The Gold Plan currently has no deductible.

Beebe has said he would call the Legislature into special session if lawmakers can agree on both short- and long-term solutions to the insurance problem. He declined to discuss details of any possible long-term solution that may have been discussed Tuesday.

"Lots of progress has been made but I’m not going to talk to you about specifics on that because they want to talk to their members," the governor said.

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said he thought the meeting between 10 legislative leaders and the governor went well.

"I think there is consensus around that table," he said, although he wasn’t sure if an agreement could be reached by the end of the week and a special session could be called.

"We’re closer then we were yesterday, but this is a complicated issue," Carter said. "There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of different opinions. I think everyone wants to find a solution, but when you get down to details, I think like anything else, it starts to become a little more difficult to get a consensus. I’m hopeful by the end of the week we’ll be in position where we know exactly what we’re looking at and exactly what sort of member support is out there."

Rep. James McLean, D-Batesville, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he was hopeful an agreement would be reached soon.

"After this meeting I think we’ve made a lot of progress and some agreements have been made and I think we’re getting close every day," McLean said. "It’s just a matter of time."

Lawmakers have been looking for several weeks for ways to avert a nearly 50 percent increase in premiums beginning Jan. 1.

Last week, legislative leaders circulated a memo at the state Capitol outlining possible options.

Also Tuesday, Bob Alexander, director of the Employee Benefits Division, said teachers will have 20 days next month to enroll for insurance for 2014, rather than the normal 30 days.

Alexander said the sign-up period would be limited to 20 days to give the division time to "get everything entered into a system and get IDs printed and out," he said.

Last month, Beebe announced a one-month delay of the date when teachers can begin signing up for health insurance as lawmakers weighed options to address soaring premiums. The start of the sign-up period was pushed back from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1. The governor also said the Employee Benefits Division has told him it needs some direction by Oct. 15 to begin printing insurance application materials.

Alexander told a legislative committee in September that it would $53 million in new money to keep premium rates at current levels next year.

The rates have been rising for several years because of a lack of funding from the state and local school districts, Alexander said. Also, a $10 million catastrophic claims fund was wiped out by five claims in 2012 and 2013 that each totaled more than $1 million.

The Legislature this year allocated $8 million in end-of-the-year General Improvement Funds to help prop up the teacher insurance benefits program..