Great news! The Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 late Wednesday evening in favor of House Bill 1219, which authorizes funding to make expanded access to affordable health coverage in our state a reality. HB1219, which passed the Arkansas House of Representatives 77-23 earlier this week, heads to Governor Mike Beebe for his signature.
This is a significant victory on behalf of the people of Arkansas. HB1219 authorizes the state to accept federal Medicaid funds to help lower-income Arkansans purchase private insurance. Related legislation, HB1143, sets out the specifics of how the Arkansas plan, also known as the "Private Option," will be implented. HB1143 also has been approved by both legislative chambers and was sent to the Governor.
HB1219 and HB1143 will provide more than 200,000 Arkansas citizens--many of whom have lost their jobs or are struggling in jobs without health insurance--access to affordable health care.
Expanding access to affordable health coverage gives Arkansans access to critical preventative care, so fewer people will be forced to seek expensive emergency room care. Many uninsured Arkansans have waited until they are very sick and then seek expensive care in hospital emergency rooms, out of desperation and lack of any alternatives.
When Arkansans have health insurance, they are better able to seek appropriate medical care. By expanding access to affordable health care coverage, these Arkansans have an option to seek medical care earlier--in less expensive, more efficient health care settings.
Legislators worked very hard and put in many long hours on this issue. AARP Arkansas is grateful to all legislators who voted for HB1219 and HB1143, to Governor Beebe for his leadership on this issue, and to the many organizations in the ARHealth+ARJobs coalition who advocated on behalf of expanded access to affordable health care.