Medicaid Takes a Back Seat In the 89th General Assembly (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 5:08 pm  

As this year's session enters its sixth week, those GOP-backed proposals have taken center stage, rather than discussions on whether Arkansas should expand the Medicaid program by 250,000 people under the federal health care law. (Photo by Stephanie Dunn)

Beebe and DHS officials, however, note that the findings represent a small part of a $5 billion program that serves more than 776,000 people in the state.

"There's been a lot of focus on other issues up until this point, but I think you'll see more and more focus on the Medicaid discussion moving forward," said House Republican Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs.

The extra time may give Beebe leverage as more Republican-led states such as Arizona and Ohio opt for expansion despite their governors' opposition to the federal health care law. For Republicans wary of expansion, the time may give them more details on the flexibility those states have been given as guidance on what an Arkansas compromise could look like.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, a Republican who has held out hope for such a compromise, said the pace the Legislature is moving on Medicaid doesn't mean the possibility of such a deal is dead.

"It's not time to panic yet," Lamoureux said.

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