"I'm not going to weigh in on whether I prefer to do it the straight Medicaid way or do it this way," Beebe said. "My main objective is to make this Legislature as comfortable as I can make them."
Legislative leaders said they were encouraged by the new option available to the state, but said additional discussion was needed on how to proceed with Medicaid.
House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said the concept of expanding health care through private insurers rather than the state's Medicaid program would likely be more palatable to lawmakers, many of whom campaigned against the federal health care law. He called the new option "a move in the right direction."
"This is a 180-degree turn from what we thought were the options just a few weeks ago," Carter said. "We've gone from a full expansion of Medicaid as the only option now to having some private pay policies purchased through the health care exchange."
Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said it was too early to judge lawmakers' support for the new Medicaid option but said he was encouraged by the proposal.
"If they came back and said there's no flexibility, that would definitely have ended the conversation," Lamoureux said.