DHS: No backup plan if 'private option' defunded

Arkansas Department of Human Services Director John Selig, left, speaks to legislators as Jonathan Gober of the Bureau of Legislative Reasearch looks for information at a meeting of the Joint Budget Committee at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. The committee is delaying until Tuesday a discussion of the private health insurance option that legislators adopted last year to expand the Medicaid program.(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

LITTLE ROCK — The head of the Arkansas Department of Human Services says he doesn't have a backup budget plan if lawmakers block funding for the state's "private option" Medicaid expansion.

DHS Director John Selig told a legislative panel Tuesday that he doesn't have a contingency budget in case the Legislature discontinues the private option that was approved last year. Under the private option, Arkansas is using federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for low-income workers.

Democratic Sen. Linda Chesterfield called the private option's funding "at best on life support" while questioning Selig. Prospects for reauthorizing the Medicaid expansion have dimmed with supporters losing a seat in the state Senate in a special election last week.

The Joint Budget Committee planned to discuss the private option Tuesday afternoon.



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