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Arkansas governor Mike Beebe looks on during a Martin Luther King Jr. service in Little Rock, Arkansas in this January 15, 2013 Governor's office handout photo obtained by Reuters March 6, 2013.   Arkansas was set to enact the nation's most restrictive la
Arkansas governor Mike Beebe
A minority of Republicans in Arkansas's House has once again defeated the state's Medicaid expansion plan. At risk is coverage for more than 85,000 newly insured people who would lose their Medicaid coverage next year. Last year, the legislature narrowly passed the expansion with the required 75 percent majority, but the House keeps coming up just a handful of votes short this year. The Senate has passed it.

The saga of this reauthorization effort is amazing and convoluted.

The Arkansas Times tracked the madness over the last three days. It started Tuesday as the House prepared to take the initial vote.

First, Democratic lawmakers threatened to hold out their votes unless a major insurance company pledged to increase reimbursement rates for specialist doctors. The insurer gave, resulting in a raise for specialists and a small cut for primary physicians.

They came around on that initial vote, but a number of Republican lawmakers held out and the funding bill failed Tuesday. To pick up some of those critical votes, a few provisions—including one that blocked state spending for outreach to help Obamacare enrollment—had been added to the bill.
Obamacare supporters didn't seem to mind if it took a little pork to get the bill through. “It helped," Beebe said. "If it takes 75 votes, it’s worth it if he's the seventy-fifth vote.”

It wasn't yet enough. The bill failed in the House again Wednesday. The reason, it seems, is House members didn't want to be seen as the ones taking the first step toward approving Obamacare, preferring to leave that responsibility to the Senate. One lawmaker told the Times that Rep. Terry Rice (R), who is challenging Sen. Bruce Holland (R) in a primary, wanted to ensure that Holland voted in favor of Obamacare before he took his own opposing vote.

The Senate finally took the bill up Thursday. To get the necessary votes, following a special election that momentarily gave right-wingers enough clout to block the Medicaid funding, Beebe and Senate leaders had to give Sen. Jane English (R) a commitment about how $15 million in workforce training funding would be spent, funneling it to job training at two-year community colleges.

All that for 85,000 people not to be kicked off of the only health insurance plan they have any hope of getting. House leadership vows to keep on trying.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 12:30 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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