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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

The Trump administration is rejecting a proposal by Kansas to kick people off of Medicaid after three years, and also plans to allow states to exempt American Indian tribal members from Medicaid work requirement rules.

The twin announcements came in a speech Monday morning given by the Trump administration’s top Medicaid and Medicare official, Seema Verma, to the American Hospital Association.

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President Donald Trump and his attorney Rudy Guiliani’s off-the-cuff and misleading remarks on television and social media regarding ongoing negotiations for the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea may put those individuals at risk, the Washington Post reported.

By commenting publicly and inaccurately on sensitive backchannel negotiations, experts told the Post, the Trump administration may increase the hostages’ value and push the North Korean regime to demand more concessions for their release.

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Following the panic trigged by his freewheeling TV interviews earlier this week, in which he acknowledged for the first time that President Trump reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen for the $130,000 paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani released a statement Friday afternoon to “clarify the views I expressed.”

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When the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) abruptly resigned last week after less than six months in his post, the agency gave no explanation.

But an e-mail from a BIA employee obtained by TPM claims the director, Bryan Rice, exhibited aggressive and intimidating behavior toward her in an incident she believes was captured by a surveillance camera. The woman involved and her supporters have been urging tribal leaders — via e-mail and social media — to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Interior Department for the video of the alleged incident. At least five did so in the weeks leading up to Rice’s resignation, according to the agency’s FOIA logs.

The five identically worded FOIA queries read: “Request footage of the Indian Affairs FOIA Officer, Jessica Rogers and Bryan Rice, Bureau of Indian Affairs Director on the 4th floor north and south hallway in the main Interior building on December 6, 2017, between on or about 9 am and noon.”

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Last November, Mainers overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure that would expand Medicaid. Until now, the state’s firebrand Republican Governor Paul LePage has successfully blocked the expansion by simply ignoring his constituents and refusing to move forward on its implementation. The standoff may soon have to end: On Monday, a group of health-care advocates in the state sued LePage, saying his foot-dragging is directly harming the 80,000 low-income people who were supposed to be eligible to enroll in Medicaid this year.

Because LePage is term-limited and cannot be reelected this fall, his stonewalling can only delay implementation of the Medicaid expansion for so long. But already his defiance is inspiring other anti-ACA Republicans to follow suit.

In Idaho, where pro-Medicaid advocates announced Monday that they’ve surpassed the amount of required signatures to put expansion on the ballot this November, a far-right candidate for governor has already vowed to pull a LePage if it passes.

In a GOP gubernatorial primary debate last week, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said he “would look at all the options” for overturning the initiative to expand Medicaid to cover 62,000 more people in the state. His opponent, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, disagreed, promising instead to “adhere to the will of the voters.”

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion insist they will prevail both at the ballot box and in the courts, but Maine’s experience with a hostile governor serves as a cautionary tale for advocates working to gather signatures for expansion initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah.

Meanwhile, the uproar over Trump’s HHS’ suggestion that it may force Native American tribes to comply with Medicaid work requirements continues. Ten senators — nine Democrats and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — wrote to the agency expressing alarm at HHS’ position that exempting tribes from the requirements would be giving them an illegal race-based privilege. “Tribes are not a racial group but rather political communities,” the senators wrote. “The views expressed fail to recognize the unique legal status of Indian tribes and their members under federal law, the U.S. Constitution, treaties, and the federal trust relationship.”

As more states with Native American tribal populations seek permission to implement Medicaid work requirements, including OhioMichiganArizona, this is likely to become a major legal fight in the months ahead. Ohio, which just submitted its work-requirements proposal Monday night, estimates that 18,000 people could be kicked off Medicaid. Health advocates say the actual number’s much higher, and are exploring a lawsuit. 

Finally, a new study from the Commonwealth Fund released Tuesday finds that Trump administration policies are driving up the number of uninsured Americans. About four million working-age people have lost insurance coverage since 2016, the group reports, citing a laundry list of federal actions exacerbating the trend, including “deep cuts in advertising and outreach during the marketplace open-enrollment periods, a shorter open enrollment period,” the repeal of the individual mandate, Medicaid work requirements, and “recent actions to increase the availability of insurance policies that don’t comply with ACA minimum benefit standards.”

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On Monday night, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) officially submitted a request to the Department of Health and Human Services for permission to force the roughly 700,000 people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion to prove they’re working at least 80 hours per month. If the waiver is approved, Ohioans unable to find work would have to get placed with an organization in their county and work without pay to earn the value of their health care benefits.

Ohio’s non-profit Center for Health Affairs estimates that 18,000 people could lose  coverage due to the requirement, though advocacy groups say that number could be much higher if eligible people are deterred by the bureaucratic hoops they have to jump through to document their employment status or prove they’re exempt due to a disability.

“We believe they’re vastly underestimating,” Katie McGarvey with the Legal Aid Society of Ohio told TPM. “There’s not an automatic way to do those exemptions, so each county will have to contact each individual, get documentation, and do an assessment. What if the person doesn’t get the mail or doesn’t have transportation to the appointment? It’s a huge administrative barrier and a lot of people who need the exemption and are eligible will fall through the cracks.”

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At an invitation-only roundtable with Capitol Hill reporters Friday morning, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat, gave a full-throated defense of Democrats’ strategy of putting a thumb on the scale in primaries across the country. Hoyer was responding to criticism sparked earlier this week when The Intercept published a recording in which he urged a progressive candidate in Colorado to drop out of his race.

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