AG approves name, ballot title of referendum on private option


LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Tuesday certified the popular name and ballot title of a proposed referendum on Arkansas’ so-called “private option” for expanding health care coverage in the state.

The certification clears the way for Arkansans Against Big Government to begin collecting signatures to place the referendum on the November 2014 general election ballot. The group will need 46,880 signatures of registered Arkansas voters to get the measure on the ballot.

McDaniel had rejected two earlier versions of the referendum. On Tuesday, he approved the popular name as submitted but substituted and certified a different ballot title that he said would be “more suitable, complete, and correct” than the submitted ballot title.

The referendum would ask voters to approve or repeal Act 1498, the Health Care Independence Act of 2013, enabling legislation for a plan to use federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for Arkansans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — an estimated 250,000 people. The plan, which still needs approval from the federal government, is an alternative to the expansion of state Medicaid rolls that was proposed in the federal Affordable Care Act.

Former Republican 4th District congressional candidate Glenn Gallas of Hot Springs, chairman of Arkansans Against Big Government, did not immediately return a call Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.

Gallas has said that he considers the private option to be the biggest expansion of government in Arkansas history. Republican legislative leaders who pushed for the private option have said it is not an expansion of state government and that instead it will shrink the state Medicaid rolls by about 35 percent as some people now on Medicaid become eligible for subsidies to buy private insurance through the state health insurance exchange.