The bills to fund private option Medicaid expansion have again been passed over in the House today. Negotiations undoubtedly continue.
The House has adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Thursday. House Speaker Davy Carter said he would meet with some of the 27 holdouts on the bill this afternoon.
PS — Private option enrollment is up to 127,000. That's 127,000 Arkansas human beings who'll lose brand-new insurance coverage if a 26 percent minority of the Arkansas house succeeds in its belief that they should determine law in Arkansas over majority will.
David Ramsey reports from the Captiol:
"It’s been a very productive day," Carter said. "The mood around here is much better." Carter and Rep. John Burris
will meet with a group of the holdouts this afternoon at 3:30 today.
"I received a letter yesterday from members asking to talk," Carter said. "I've been talking to members this whole time but we're going to get a representative group from that group...we've had some preliminary discussions that were very professional and I'm pretty optimistic."
Carter continued to stress that there was not majority support among the membership for changes to the private option beyond the Bell amendments. "There's just simply not 51 members that have had a desire to change the bill, otherwise I would argue that would already have been done," he said. "Therein lies the quagmire that we've all been dealing with the last week. But we'll sit down and talk about it and see what's realistic and what's not realistic. Their views are important and I want to hear them."
Given that it's very hard to imagine any substantive changes that could get sufficient support to go anywhere, it's not clear just what will be discussed this afternoon. It may partly be simply that some in the no camp aren't actually willing to kill the entire Medicaid budget, but want to leadership to hear their concerns, or even negotiate the terms on which the final vote will take place (perhaps giving other amendments a vote on the same day, even if they're doomed). The other wildcard might be asks not directly within the DHS/private option appropriation.
"If this resolves the issue and moves the ball closer to the goal line then I am all for sitting down with anyone, anywhere," Carter said.
Also today, Rep. Bruce Cozart
floated an amendment to attempt to separate the private option appropriation from the DHS budget. The amendment has very little support outside of the 27 no votes and was not run today. Cozart said that he would not run his amendment until the private option appropriation is voted on, saying he was "trying to make a statement."
"I’m trying to make a statement that we need to move on," Cozart said. "We need to get a budget for DHS and be able to let them have their budget for next year. If we take the private option out…and not hold up the fiscal session."
He added that "we need the other side to come to the table and talk to us" but said that so far his group has not made an offer that didn't include ending the private option.
Cozart acknowledged that his amendment likely did not have nearly enough support to pass. "Probably not but we're trying," he said. “Either that or somebody’s going to have to step out. If somebody wants to step out of the 27 where it’s down to just 25, they need to do that."
“There are a lot that are willing to stay until we’re at least heard,” he said. "The end game here is either we make a stand and we stay and we kill the budget, or if somebody is not really strong enough, they’ll step off. I don’t want to leave without a budget."
That said, Cozart said he personally was willing to kill the entire Medicaid budget if that's what it took to stop the private option. "I'm not voting yes," he said. "I am [willing to block the entire DHS budget]. But there are some that I don't believe are."