If you’re a conservative, Arkansas’ legislature flipped from Democratic to Republican at the perfect time. The party rode Mitt Romney’s coattails and a magic carpet of donations to take over in 2012, setting up two years of confrontations with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. But the governor (who does not have veto power) figured out a way to keep the state involved in the Affordable Care Act rollout. Instead of expanding Medicaid, the state would seek a waiver for a “private option”—dollars spent on private insurance plans for the poor. It would need to be approved in 2013 and 2014.
Guess what just happened. The state House took up the bill, which required 75 (of 100) votes to advance. The bill had already been amended with language that blocked the state from advertising the private option, because in the words of the amendment sponsor, “We’re trying to create a barrier to enrollment.” But the bill only got 70 votes.
Reporting from Arkansas this week has focused on the apparent success Democrats had in securing Senate votes for passage, and the defeat in the House isn’t yet seen as the end of the program. But if it is, it’s a watershed: a state expanding coverage under the ACA, then rolling it back.