LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers voted Thursday to keep Arkansas’ hybrid Medicaid expansion for another year as the state’s governor prepares to seek new limits on the first-in-the-nation program.
The House approved by a 77-13 vote the state’s Medicaid budget, which includes the hybrid expansion. The proposal now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. More than 300,000 people are on the program, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
The measure advanced a day after the bill fell short of the three-fourths support needed for most budget bills in the majority Legislature. It took three separate votes for the Senate to also clear that threshold.
The program has sharply divided Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, since it was crafted in 2013 as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law. Hutchinson effectively saved the program last year after it fell short of the votes needed by voiding part of a budget bill that called for the program’s end.
The state is expected to pay in the coming year $109 million of the $1.8 billion total cost of the expansion program.
Hutchinson earlier this month said he’d ask for approval to move 60,000 people off the expansion program, also known as Arkansas Works, and onto the insurance marketplace. He also wants to impose work requirements on some of the program’s participants. Lawmakers are expected to take up legislation related to those proposals during a special session in May.
“I did not anticipate any problem with the appropriation for Arkansas Works and I am delighted with its approval by the General Assembly,” Hutchinson said in a statement after the vote.