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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

After years of political battles and weeks of procedural delays, the Virginia House and Senate voted Wednesday to expand Medicaid to cover between 300,000 and 400,000 more low-income residents.

Four Republicans joined every Senate Democrat in voting for the expansion Wednesday afternoon. Later Wednesday evening, the House followed suite, passing a multi-year budget including the expansion by an overwhelming majority. Last-minute lobbying against expansion by Trump administration officials, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and the Koch brothers’ group Americans for Prosperity was not successful.

When the bill is signed into law, as expected later this week, Virginia will join 33 states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — though Maine is currently fighting the expansion’s implementation.

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Less than 24 hours after Roseanne Barr lost her eponymous show on ABC over a racist tweet about a former Obama administration official, the comedienne tweeted — then deleted — that she wrote the post under the influence of the popular prescription sleeping pill Ambien.

“It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible,” she said.

On Wednesday morning, the company that produces the sleep aid drug took to social media to affirm that their product does not, in fact, cause one to write racist posts.

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A state court in Maine has ruled that Gov. Paul LePage (R) must submit the paperwork necessary to move forward on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover about 70,000 more low-income people in the state.

In her ruling, state judge Michaela Murphy slammed LePage’s health department for unilaterally blocking the expansion’s implementation since voters overwhelmingly approved it by ballot initiative last November.

“The Court concludes that the Commissioner’s complete failure to act cannot be considered substantial compliance,” she wrote, ordering the governor to submit the necessary paperwork to the federal government by June 11.

It wasn’t immediately known whether LePage planned to appeal the decision.

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As Republicans and Democrats in Washington prepare to point fingers at one another for the nation’s health-care woes in the lead-up to this November’s midterm elections, new data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the Trump administration’s attempts to chip away at the Affordable Care Act have led to a marked increase in the uninsured rate among… Republicans. Overall, the national uninsured rate barely changed over the course of 2017.

Meanwhile, battles over Medicaid continue to rage in states across the country.

A judge in Maine heard oral arguments last week in a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage (R) for unilaterally blocking the expansion of Medicaid that voters overwhelmingly approved last November. LePage, a staunch opponent of Medicaid, blew past the mandated April deadline to move forward with the implementation of the expansion, which is set to extend coverage to 70,000 low-income people in the state.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy says she will issue a ruling as soon as possible, since expansion-eligible residents are supposed to be able to enroll by this July. During the hearing, according to local press, she scolded the state’s lawyers, saying: “The law is in effect. It’s not a suggestion. The executive branch has a duty to enforce that.”

The states seeking waivers from Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services to make drastic changes to their Medicaid programs are also running headlong into political and legal problems.

On Thursday, four Ohio Democrats wrote to Gov. John Kasich (R) pleading with him to withdraw his request for a waiver to put Medicaid work requirements in place. The state lawmakers charged that the work requirements would have a racially discriminatory impact, would create an administrative burden and would waste taxpayer dollars. Kasich’s proposal would force the 700,000 enrollees in the state’s Medicaid expansion to work 80 hours per month or lose their health care. But like the plan Michigan recently backed away from, Ohio’s proposal would exempt more than two dozen rural, high-unemployment, overwhelmingly white counties from the work requirements, but would not exempt high-unemployment black population centers like Cleveland because their affluent suburbs make the overall county unemployment rate too low to qualify.

“By pushing through a waiver that will have a detrimental impact to majority African American populations, this policy will exacerbate already existing economic and health disadvantages,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), wrote to Kasich.

South Dakota, a state that never expanded Medicaid but still wants to jump on the work requirements bandwagon, is stepping into dicey legal territory as well. Their plan involves imposing the work requirement only on its two most populous counties, which happen to hold the vast majority of the state’s (very small) black population and nearly half its Latino population. The state also plans to force its Native American population to comply with the requirements, which tribes, legal experts, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle say is an unconstitutional violation of their tribal sovereignty.

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Just a few days after Michigan Republicans walked back their controversial plan to exempt several majority-white counties from its proposed Medicaid work requirement after a widespread backlash and accusations of racism, South Dakota unveiled its own proposal that wades into a similar legal and political fight.

The draft waiver the state released this week proposes the implementation of a Medicaid work requirement for a five-year period only in the state’s two most populous counties, Minnehaha and Pennington, home to Sioux Falls and Rapid City respectively. While the both the state and its largest cities are overwhelmingly white, more than two-thirds of the state’s black residents and nearly half of the state’s Hispanic residents live in the two counties where the work requirements would take effect.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs this week unilaterally scrapped an Obama-era provision in their labor contract, stripping many of doctors and nurses of the right to have a union representative advocate for them at a hearing at which they are being disciplined or fired.

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In his first testimony before Congress as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was pressed by Democratic House members about allegations that career civil servants at the State Department were targeted for reassignment because of their work under the Obama administration — a possible violation of federal law.

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, came out swinging in his opening statement, citing “whistleblowers who have reported to this committee that the Administration has targeted career employees because of their perceived political beliefs.”

When Engel asked Pompeo why the agency has yet to respond to the lawmakers’ request for documents related to these alleged incidents of retaliation, the Secretary of State promised to check on the request, and by the end of this week give them a timeline for obtaining the documents. Pompeo added that if anyone at the Department did engage in such targeting, they should not be employed at State.

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When the Trump administration set about chipping away at the Affordable Care Act immediately upon taking office, it was widely predicted that the policy changes and outreach cuts would create the biggest hurdles for the groups most likely to vote Democratic — including young people, people of color, and the poor. Many months later, new reports on the national uninsured rate suggest the opposite may be true: the Trump administration’s health care agenda is whacking red states hardest.

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