Private Option Opponents Seek Exit Plan (Andrew DeMillo Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Mar. 3, 2014 7:08 am  

It would address a key concern by supporters of the program, who say they're unwilling to negotiate any more changes to the private option funding bill after adding amendments aimed at swaying opponents of the program. Those amendments include a prohibition against spending any public funds to promote the private option or other parts of the federal health law.

Those changes were pitched by an opponent of the private option, who acknowledged that the votes weren't there to kill the program this session but said they'd at least slow the growth in the program.

"I did my best to provide what I believed was a way out of this impasse, and here we are," said Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, who had proposed the advertising prohibition.

The standoff has tested the patience of Democrats, who vented frustration over the back-to-back failed votes after grudgingly agreeing to the amendments. It's also continuing to sharply divide Republicans and ensuring the private option will be a wedge issue in dozens of GOP primary fights throughout the state this spring.

The looming shadow of the election may ultimately be the bigger factor in whether the private option survives than any other changes to the program. With the filing period for state and federal offices ending at noon Monday, it's a shadow that may fade enough for a breakthrough by the time the House takes up the measure again.

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