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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 blowing past a self-imposed September deadline for passing a bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s volatile individual market and prevent massive rate hikes from hitting people across the country, the negotiations around that bill are on life support, languishing without the backing of Republican leaders.

“We don’t have an agreement yet,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee told reporters Tuesday. “We’ll keep talking.”

Asked if Senate Republican leadership is encouraging him to continue the negotiations, Alexander laughed. “I’m telling them that I am continuing the talks,” he quipped. “My hope would be that they would want to put it on the floor.”

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A group of Obama administration alumni, celebrities, and health insurance industry leaders is launching this week an outreach campaign to spread the word about this November’s Obamacare open enrollment period.

Josh Peck, the former chief marketing officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, says the effort is meant to help mitigate the damage of the Trump administration’s gutting of Affordable Care Act outreach, severing of outreach partnerships, and shortening of the open enrollment period.

“We’re of the mind that if the administration makes it clear they won’t take open enrollment seriously, we have to step up and get the word out,” he told TPM. “There’s a huge chasm between what we’re able to do and what should be done, and what was done last year. But [the Department of Health and Human Services] has set the bar so unbelievably low this year for outreach that even a relatively small organization can move the needle and have an outsized impact.”

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Late Monday night, House Republicans unveiled a plan for reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which Congress allowed to lapse this past weekend.

Like its Senate counterpart, the bill lays out five years of CHIP funding, but reduces the amount of federal money going to help states cover low-income children and pregnant women after two years. Unlike the Senate bill, the entire package is funded by cuts to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act’s prevention and public health fund.

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Over the weekend, Congress allowed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers nearly 9 million children in low-income families, to lapse—failing to pass a reauthorization by Saturday’s deadline after spending most of the year attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The expiration of the program will not affect all states equally. Some are already scrambling to move money around to make sure no child sees their coverage lapse while others have a healthy amount in reserves that will last them well into next year if Congress does not act.

Though the Senate will hold a markup on the reauthorization on Wednesday, its passage remains uncertain. The House has not yet unveiled its version of the bill, and a House Democratic aide told TPM that while negotiations are ongoing, the parties are still fighting over whether to maintain the same level of the federal funding match for CHIP and whether to require cuts to other parts of the federal budget to offset CHIP’s cost.

“We have yet to reach an agreement,” the aide said. “It’s pretty upsetting that the time tradeoff has been an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

Congress may have failed spectacularly to meet Saturday’s deadline for passing a bill to repeal Obamacare with only 50 votes, but Republicans are promising to keep the zombie effort lurching along into 2018—allowing it to cling to future reconciliation bills that GOP leaders had wanted to use as a vehicle for tax cuts. 

Though the Senate budget unveiled Friday does not include provisions to allow for another Obamacare repeal vote, it would allow the Senate to continue to chip away at pieces of the law, such as the individual mandate.

Rank-and-file lawmakers are insisting, meanwhile, that more votes on full repeal are possible next year.

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In a letter to the embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Friday afternoon, Democrats in the House and Senate who work on health care policy demanded answers about a host of recent HHS decisions—including an abrupt order to all 10 regional offices to stop participating in local open enrollment events.

“We urge you to immediately reconsider and reverse this harmful directive to HHS Regional Offices,” the Democratic committee leaders wrote. “The Trump Administration’s latest effort to sabotage health care will likely lead to additional confusion, creating unnecessary barriers for patients and families seeking to purchase insurance.”

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On Wednesday’s deadline for insurance companies to submit their individual market rates to the federal government, North Dakota lost one of its three remaining companies. Citing “the uncertainty that currently exists around cost-sharing reductions,” the state’s insurance commission announced Thursday that the insurer Medica quit the state’s market, leaving just two options for consumers in North Dakota.

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After spending most of the month on yet another failed bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act and block-grant Medicaid, Congress is set to leave town without reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or payments for hospitals that serve the uninsured – and without passing a bill to stabilize Obamacare’s individual market, leaving it vulnerable to President Trump’s whims.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who sits on one of the key committees in charge of health care, confirmed to TPM that Congress will likely allow CHIP to lapse by Saturday’s deadline, putting the health insurance of millions of children in jeopardy.

“I’m confident the money will come but obviously it’s not going to come on time,” she said wearily.

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

It’s dead—again.

Emerging from a closed-door lunch meeting, Republican senators told reporters that leadership had decided to call off a vote this week on a bill to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and convert Medicaid into a shrinking block grant.

“I don’t believe there is going to be a vote,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said with a smile, declining to reveal how she would have voted on the controversial bill, but adding: “There’s still a lot of work to do on health care.”

Other Republican members were less zen about the news that they would once again fail to fulfill their signature campaign promise to nuke Obamacare.

“I’m apoplectic,” Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) told TPM. “I’m kind of disgusted that after 9 months the self-interest is still outweighing the national interest in our caucus in some ways. This should not have happened. This did not have to happen.”

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