Arkansas Senate Approves Medicaid Alternative

February 2, 2015 AT 10:59 AM

The Arkansas Senate voted Thursday to continue the state's compromise Medicaid expansion another year and create a task force to look at alternatives for the hundreds of thousands of people receiving coverage through the first-in-the-nation initiative.

By a 29-2 vote, the Senate decided to continue the "private option" through June 30, 2016. Crafted two years ago as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health law, the program uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
The Senate also approved creating a 16-member task force to look at alternatives for covering the more than 213,000 people on the program and longer-term changes to the state's Medicaid system. The task force bill passed on a 27-7 vote.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed creating the task force last week as he called on lawmakers to continue the private option through the end of next year. Both proposals now head to the House. The top Republican in the Senate said the plan gives lawmakers time to find common ground on health care.