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Arkansas lawmakers break deadlock, approve Medicaid budget

April 20, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas House voted Tuesday to keep the state’s Medicaid expansion for another year, breaking a deadlock that left the program’s future uncertain.

The House voted 78-15 to approve the budget for Medicaid and the expansion program, sending the legislation to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. The measure needed at least 75 votes to advance.

The Senate last month had approved the budget bill, but it failed in the House four times in the past week.

Legislative leaders earlier Tuesday said they hoped to wrap up this year’s session by the middle of next week if the House approved the Medicaid bill.

Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion has sharply divided the Republican majorities in the Legislature since it was first approved in 2013. Past efforts to reauthorize the program have faced repeated votes before winning narrow approval.

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Lawmakers last month approved a plan to overhaul the expansion program to encourage participants to work after a work requirement was blocked by the courts and President Joe Biden’s administration. The federal government must approve that overhaul.