Arkansas' first-in-the-nation plan that uses Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for the poor survived an effort to defund it Tuesday, as lawmakers gave final approval to continue a program that has extended health coverage to nearly 94,000 people.
The House voted 76-24 to reauthorize funding for the "private option" program that was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law. Arkansas was the first state to win federal approval for such an approach, touted as a compromise for Republican-leaning states.
The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who plans to sign it into law. The measure needed at least 75 votes in the 100-member House.
The program's future had been in doubt after failing to win enough support four days in a row in the state House last month. The state Senate had approved the funding measure without a vote to spare.
The plan has sharply divided Republicans, and the votes will likely continue to be an issue in GOP primaries for legislative, statewide and congressional offices in May. Republicans control the Legislature and have made major gains in Arkansas over the past two elections by running against President Barack Obama's health care law.