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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

During a closed-door meeting with constituents this weekend, at which he was jeered by the crowd and called a liar, Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) became the latest Senate Republican to criticize the House bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In an audio recording of the event obtained by Politico, Heller tells the gathered Nevadans that Congress "ought to embrace what’s good in the Affordable Care Act” and not scrap its protections and subsidies entirely.

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Aiming to erode public trust in the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office ahead of its report this week expected to show that the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill will cause millions of people to lose their health insurance, Republican lawmakers and Trump administration officials are rewriting the history of the CBO's analysis of the Affordable Care Act.

"If the CBO was right about Obamacare to begin with, there’d be 8 million more people on Obamacare today than there actually are," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told ABC on Sunday. "So I love the folks at the CBO, they work really hard, they do, but sometimes we ask them to do stuff they’re not capable of doing."

On Sunday's "Meet the Press," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price piled on. "CBO has been very adept in not providing appropriate coverage statistics," he said.

But in interviews with TPM, budget experts – including the CBO director during the conception and implementation of Obamacare – paint a very different picture.

They argue that the office's projections of how many total people would gain coverage under Obamacare and of the average cost of health insurance premiums turned out to be quite close to the eventual reality. The office missed the mark in some areas, they said, due to unpredictable developments like the Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to refuse to expand Medicaid.

"The CBO's predictions were not as accurate as we would have liked, but they were more accurate than the uninformed guesses of a lot of people at the time, and more accurate than the informed guesses of many other organizations," Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the CBO from 2009 to 2015, told TPM. "I wish we had done better, but I am proud of what we did."

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The Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is moving full steam ahead—approved by two committees this week on party line votes—despite the fact that Congress' research arm has not yet issued its report on how much the bill would cost the government and how many people could lose their health insurance if it passes.

A report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected next week, and experts at the Brookings Institute—who have performed their own analysis of the bill—predicted it will bear bad news for Republicans.

"CBO’s analysis will likely estimate that at least 15 million people will lose coverage under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the end of the ten-year scoring window," wrote Brookings analysts Loren Adler and Matthew Fiedler. "Estimates could be higher, but it’s is unlikely they will be significantly lower."

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Republicans in Congress are in a bind. House conservatives are complaining that the Donald Trump-endorsed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act retains or replicates too many of its rules and provisions. But if these members prevail in stripping out those provisions, the bill has no chance of passing the more moderate Senate—where any non-budgetary modifications to the health care law must clear a 60-vote threshold and where Republicans currently hold only 52 seats.

To solve this conundrum, Freedom Caucus member and current holdout on the bill Rep. David Brat (R-VA) told reporters Thursday that the Senate should blow up its 60-vote rule and push the bill through with 51 votes—overruling the Senate parliamentarian. Brat described it as "going nuclear," a term which in recent political history has meant blowing up the Senate filibuster. This is a different scenario, but the upshot would be similar: avoiding a Senate filibuster.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held an unusual press conference Thursday as he attempted to quell opposition to the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which since its debut Monday has come under fire from doctors, nurses, hospitals, the elderly, insurers, conservative lawmakers and conservative activists.

Striding onto the stage in rolled-up shirtsleeves, the House leader fired up a Powerpoint presentation about the bill, complete with bullet points and cutesy clip art of a piggy bank and a stethoscope.

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As the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act faces a conservative revolt in the House of Representatives over both the bill's substance and rushed review, an outside lobby group is preparing to drop half a million dollars to pressure skeptical lawmakers to embrace the plan.

The American Action Network, a conservative non-profit closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, will spend the money on TV ads in the dissenting lawmakers' home districts, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Opposition to the the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act continued to emerge on Wednesday—the bill's second day in the public eye—with statements condemning the bill from groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, and the elderly.

Mobbed by reporters as he emerged from casting an afternoon vote, the bill's author Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) brushed off the latest round of criticism, saying the thousands of hospitals and hundreds of thousands of doctors are part of a "medical industrial complex" that opposes major reforms to Medicaid.

"The hospitals came out against Medicaid reform before they ever saw the bill," said Walden, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "But, you know, we understand that there's a pretty big medical industrial complex that when you touch it, it touches back."

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Flexing their muscle in the political battle over Obamacare repeal, a coalition of of hospital groups and systems sent a new letter to Congress dated Wednesday expressing "significant concerns" about the proposed GOP repeal and replace bill.

"It is likely to result in a substantial reduction in the number of Americans able to
buy affordable health insurance or maintain coverage under the Medicaid program," they write in the letter. "We are very concerned that the draft legislative proposal being considered by the House committees could lead to tremendous instability for those seeking affordable coverage."

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On Wednesday morning, two powerful House committees began marking up the bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite the fact that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet crunched the numbers on what the plan would cost or how many people would lose their health insurance if it passes.

The Republican authors of the bills refused to say this week if the number of uninsured Americans would grow or shrink under their proposals. Independent estimates of how many people would lose insurance range between two to four million and tens of millions of people. As for how much the plan would cost the federal government, Republican leaders offered no numbers—only vague assurances that it will be "fiscally responsible."

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Less than 24 hours after its unveiling, the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was engulfed in a firestorm of criticism from the left, right, and center of the political spectrum.

Hardline conservatives blasted the plan as "Obamacare-lite," while more moderate Republicans fretted that the plan will not adequately protect those who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

As they tried to straddle a potentially impossible political divide, the House committee chairs pushing the bill forward presented a contradictory message: The bill both completely scraps Obamacare and protects some of its most popular provisions.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) (pictured above right) listed those provisions in a press conference on Tuesday: "We are protecting those patients living with preexisting conditions under our plan," he said. "We are not returning to the days of lifetime or annual limits. And we will continue to allow young adults to remain on their parents' policies until they reach the age of 26. And we will keep our promise not to pull the rug out from anyone, including those on Medicaid."

To the consternation of conservative lawmakers, the bill also maintains the Affordable Care Act's "Cadillac Tax" on pricey employer insurance plans and its rule that health insurance plans must cover 10 "essential benefits."

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