Burris Defeat, GOP Runoff Clouds Private Option Future in Arkansas

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 7:20 am  

Scott Flippo, above, defeated term-limited state Rep. John Burris in a race for a state Senate seat in Tuesday's GOP runoff election.

Flippo, 34, echoed the complaints other opponents of the program have made, saying the state won't be able to afford the program once it eventually has to pay part of the cost and insisting that the state doesn't have as much control over the program as supporters say it does. The push against the private option is despite supporters pointing to signs that it is working, including a reported drop in the number of uninsured patients at many Arkansas hospitals.

Flippo's win also comes after legislative leaders said they had hoped to avoid the same prolonged debates over the private option that had marked the past two legislative sessions.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang, who will be the Senate's president in next year's session, said earlier Tuesday he hoped lawmakers could weigh the program without campaign rhetoric interfering. Dismang, who also had been an architect of the private option, had backed Burris' Senate bid.

"Even if (Flippo) ultimately chooses to vote against the program, I would like for him to at least spend the time to understand what we're looking at and understand the implications both good and bad and make a decision based on what's best for his constituency," Dismang, R-Beebe, said. "I understand that this is his central plank, but at the same time there's a difference between campaigning and legislating."

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