Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

When Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) first announced she would support the GOP tax bill that killed Obamacare’s individual mandate, she insisted that three separate health care measures to prop up the Affordable Care Act and protect Medicare recipients be passed before she cast her vote. She then amended her demand, saying the bills had to pass before the tax bill came back from the House-Senate conference committee. She then insisted — after voting for the tax bill — that the policies pass by the end of 2017. When it became clear that wasn’t possible in the face of staunch opposition from House conservatives, she expressed confidence they would become law in January.

Now, Collins is moving the goalposts yet again.

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A proposed rule published by the Trump administration Thursday would make it much easier for small businesses, unions, and self-employed individuals to form their own health care markets free from many of the regulations and consumer protections that govern the Affordable Care Act’s plans—shrinking and weakening Obamacare’s individual and group markets.

While the Department of Labor assured the public in a press release Thursday that the new, cheaper plans “cannot charge individuals higher premiums based on health factors or refuse to admit employees to a plan because of health factors,” health care experts and industry leaders oppose the move, warning that the plans may not cover basic health care services and have in the past defrauded their customers.

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On Wednesday morning, Congress’ first day in session in 2018, two new Democrats were sworn in to the Senate, bringing Republicans’ majority to a razor-thin 51 to 49.

Alabama’s Doug Jones, after winning an upset special election in December over Republican nominee Roy Moore, becomes the first Democrat in decades to represent his state in the upper chamber, taking the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and temporarily held by appointee Luther Strange.

Minnesota’s former Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was also sworn in Wednesday, taking the seat vacated by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who resigned in December following multiple accusations of groping and other forms of sexual misconduct.

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Congress left D.C. for the December holidays without finding long-term solutions to any of the issues hanging over their heads—from immigration to children’s health insurance, the debt ceiling, or the government’s budget. After passing a deep (and permanent) corporate tax cut, they voted to kick the can down the road on the rest of their to-do list, setting up a serious January crunch.

Here are all of the things Congress must address in the coming weeks:

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When Congress passed a massive tax overhaul into law last week, it also knocked out one of the key pillars of the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate.

Though there is an open debate among health care experts as to just how effective the mandate and its penalty has been over the past few years at pushing young and healthy people to sign up for health insurance, nearly all agree that the repeal will be a severe blow to the nation’s health care system, driving up premiums, scaring away insurers, and swelling the ranks of the uninsured.

While President Trump has repeatedly and inaccurately declared that by killing the mandate he has essentially killed Obamacare in its entirety, health economists predict that even in the worst case scenario, the ACA will manage to survive—bloody and bruised but very much alive.

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The morning after Christmas, President Donald Trump resumed his victory lap on the GOP tax plan, boasting correctly that he had repealed “the very unfair and unpopular individual mandate,” but incorrectly adding that doing so “essentially repeals (over time) ObamaCare.”

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The proposal Republicans offered to fund for six months a popular child health care program would also cut $750 million from the Affordable Care Act’s public health fund. The $750 million is technically being redirected to community health centers and other programs that have also been running short on funds. Nonetheless, the proposed cuts are prompting pushback from Democrats who have otherwise pressed the GOP to reauthorize funding for the child health care program, the Children’s Health Insurance Programs (also known as CHIP).

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The morning after casting her vote for a tax bill that kills Obamacare’s individual mandate, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) put out a statement saying the health care policies she demanded in exchange for her vote will not be considered at all this year.

One bill would to restore government subsidies to insurance companies, known as cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, that the Trump administration cut off earlier this year. Another would set up a temporary federal reinsurance program aimed at lowering premiums. Collins’ third demand was a waiver of deep automatic cuts to Medicare and other federal programs triggered by the $1.4 trillion price tag of the tax cuts passed this week.

Now, it appears all three demands will not be met this year.

“It has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs,” Collins said in a joint statement with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who co-sponsored legislation to restore CSR payments.

“There is every reason to believe that these important provisions can and will be delivered as part of a bipartisan agreement” in January, the lawmakers added.

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Just a few hours before the Senate prepares to vote on a massive overhaul of the American tax system, a host of House Republicans told reporters that the promises made to secure the vote of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have no chance of passing the lower chamber and becoming law.

Collins announced Monday that she would vote for the tax bill based on promises from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to support two health care bills aimed at mitigating the expected damage from the tax bill’s provision killing Obamacare’s individual mandate.

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