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Lawmaker says private option delay being considered

LITTLE ROCK — A state legislator said Wednesday there is talk among some lawmakers of delaying implementation of Arkansas’ plan to use Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance coverage for the state’s working poor citing as her source a state senator who said later he knew of no such talk.

Talking to reporters at a news conference announcing her entry into the 2nd District congressional race, Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, said some colleagues believe the so-called private option should be delayed until problems with the federal Affordable Care Act can be addressed.

Problems with roll-out of the national system for signing up for coverage in the health care marketplace has sparked heated debate in Congress, and some lawmakers maintain that thousands of Americans have lost their health insurance under the law, contrary to promises made by President Obama that people who like their current coverage could keep it.

“I think that with everything that has gone on in D.C., my expectation is there will be no immediate implementation of the private option. Because there are too many unknowns in D.C., I think the whole thing may be frozen,” Clemmer said in answering reporters’ questions following her formal announcement as a candidate for the 2nd District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock.

She said she learned of the discussions during a recent conversation with state Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, who played a key role among GOP lawmakers who crafted the private option as an alternative to expanding the state’s Medicaid rolls under the federal health care law also known as Obamacare.

“He was talking to me about some of the problems with (implementation of the federal law), and there may very will be delays on implementing,” Clemmer said.

Sanders told reporters later, “I’m not aware of any conversations about just delaying it. … I haven’t even contemplated (it). This is the first I’ve heard of this.”

Sanders said that what he has said is that certain components of the private option that legislators approved this year, such as cost sharing and health savings accounts, need to be in place before any vote is taken to reauthorize or fund the private option.

Clemmer said lawmakers could consider whether to block appropriation bills to fund the plan during the Legislature’s fiscal session early next year.

Clemmer did not say Wednesday how she would vote, but she said “we’ve got to have something that works.”

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