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(Little Rock) (AP) – Arkansas has become the first state to win federal approval to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income residents under the federal health care law.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday approved the state’s request to implement a “private option” plan.

The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic governor approved the plan earlier this year as an alternative to expanding Medicaid’s enrollment under the federal health care law. Arkansas formally submitted its request to the federal government last month.

Several other states have expressed interest in Arkansas’ plan as an alternative to expanding Medicaid, and supporters of the president’s health overhaul have pointed to Arkansas as a Republican-trending state that is implementing the law.

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