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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

It just became a lot easier for Republicans to kill Obamacare’s individual mandate.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK), who has been largely quiet since she helped squash Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, on Tuesday wrote an op-ed in a local Alaska paper announcing her support for gutting the individual mandate through the tax bill.

“I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy, in order to avoid being taxed,” she wrote.

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In an unusual letter to Congress this week, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general says a report he submitted more than six weeks ago on the chaotic implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order has gone down a bureaucratic black hole.

“I’m very troubled by this development,” wrote Inspector General John Roth, warning that the Trump administration is likely to invoke various executive privileges to avoid releasing some or all of the report, a move he says will “significantly hamper” his ability to hold the department accountable.

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The 2020 U.S. Census will determine which states gain or lose electoral power for years to come, and President Donald Trump is leaning towards appointing a pro-gerrymandering professor with no government experience to help lead the effort.

Politico reported Tuesday that Trump may soon tap Thomas Brunell, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who has no background in statistics, for a powerful deputy position that doesn’t require congressional approval.

He authored a 2008 book titled Competitive Elections are Bad for America.

The position has historically been held by a career civil servant who has served many years in the Census Bureau.

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As his administration has steadily chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that the public will blame the Democratic Party for any health care fallout.

Now, as Republicans in Congress inch towards striking what could be the biggest blow yet to Obamacare—sticking a provision repealing the individual mandate into their tax bill—even some on the right are starting to sweat that the GOP will fully own the issue going forward.

“You can make an argument that Obamacare is falling of its own weight, until we repeal the individual mandate,” a grave-faced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters in the halls of the Capitol on Thursday. “I hope every Republican knows that when you pass a repeal of the individual mandate, it’s no longer their problem. It becomes our problem.”

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Two weeks after its introduction and following zero hearings, the House of Representatives passed an approximately $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut on Thursday. Most of the focus has been on the bill’s tax benefits for the wealthy and corporations, but some lawmakers are sounding the alarm that passage of the bill will also trigger an estimated $25 billion cut to Medicare.

With the Senate expected to take up its own bill after the Thanksgiving recess, Democrats struggling to mount an opposition to the bill see an opening in its controversial health care impacts—including the Medicare cuts, the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, and the elimination of the medical expenses deduction in the House bill.

The Medicare cut—announced by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday—can only be waived by a majority of the House and a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate.

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Less than an hour after news broke that a woman had accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct toward her in 2006, before he ran for federal office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for an official investigation into the allegations.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said. “I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else.”

 

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An already chaotic, confusing open enrollment period, run by an administration openly hostile to the Affordable Care Act, just got worse.

As health care consumers across the country find themselves with half as much time to enroll, and with far fewer resources for information and assistance, many people across the country are also receiving renewal notices from their insurers showing wildly inaccurate estimates of how much they will have to pay in premiums.

Government officials and health care experts fear many consumers will not do the research necessary to learn that they qualify for far lower premiums than these letters suggest—depressing overall enrollment and weakening Obamacare’s already vulnerable individual market.

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Despite warnings from one of their own that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate will hike the insurance premiums of millions of middle class Americans, Senate Republicans are moving forward with a tax bill that includes a provision gutting the mandate.

When asked by TPM if the mandate’s repeal would be a “death blow” to the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) first answered “kind of,” then, chuckling, amended his answer to “I hope so.”

Asked if he was concerned that repealing the mandate would—as many experts have predicted—drain the market of young and healthy people, spiking the health care premiums for those who need insurance and remain in the individual market, Inhofe told TPM: “Let’s find out. I don’t know.”

new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the individual mandate would increase premiums at least 10 percent every year for the next 10 years. Through a combination of people choosing to go uninsured and others being priced out of the market due to these rising premiums, the CBO estimates 13 million more people will be uninsured after 10 years if the mandate is repealed.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced earlier on Tuesday that her office had crunched the numbers and found that for many middle class Americans, this insurance price hike would more than cancel out any of the tax breaks they would get from the rest of the GOP’s bill.

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