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Ark. Medicaid plan opponents hit pause on fight

– Opponents of Arkansas’ first-in-the-nation plan to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor say they’re merely hitting pause on debating the program’s future after it survived a defunding attempt in the Legislature.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe plans to sign into law legislation reauthorizing the “private option” program that the House approved Tuesday.

The plan was approved last year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. It has allowed Arkansas to extend health coverage to nearly 94,000 people.

The vote ends a budget standoff reminiscent of the fight that led to the federal government shutdown last year.

Republic Rep. Kim Hammer reversed course to support the program. But he says he’s poised to oppose it next year if it’s “not a great success.”