Beebe relying on lawmakers for exchange decision

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday he will rely on next year's legislative leaders to tell him whether there's support in the House and Senate for the state running its own insurance exchange under the federal health care law.

Beebe told reporters that he hoped to meet after Thanksgiving with incoming Senate President Michael Lamoureux and House Speaker Davy Carter on the possibility of Arkansas running its own exchange, which would allow households and small businesses to shop for private coverage.

Following months of planning for a partnership with the federal government on the exchange, Beebe said last week he was considering a state-run exchange after the Obama administration extended the deadline to make a decision. Beebe said he wants Carter and Lamoureux to measure how much support there is in next year's Legislature before the Dec. 14 deadline.

"If there's a consensus, then we'll try to accommodate what the Legislature wants to do," Beebe said. "If there's not, then we'll just stick with what they basically indicated last time."

Beebe, a Democrat, had opted for the partnership model after Republican lawmakers blocked efforts to set up a state exchange last year. Republicans won control of the House and Senate in this month's election.

Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said he believed it was possible to get a feel of whether there's enough support before the December deadline. Lamoureux said he's willing to talk with the governor but so far hasn't found support for the exchange.

"If all we're going to be doing is adding a state level of bureaucracy between us and the federal government, I don't think that would be sufficient motivation to do it," Lamoureux said.

Carter, R-Cabot, also expressed some skepticism about a state-run exchange but said he planned to reach out to the House members to see if there's any support.

"No one has convinced me that the benefits of having a state exchange outweigh not having it," said Carter, who was elected last week as the incoming speaker. "I'm open to discussing it, but right now I'm not convinced it's the best thing to do."


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