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

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (D) will face off this November for control of the governor’s mansion in the key swing state of Ohio. NBC, Fox News and the Associated Press projected the candidates would win their nominations at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night. 

Both candidates had the backing of their respective party’s establishments, and fended off challenges from insurgent candidates that tapped into energy from the fringes.

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Congressional Democrats wrote to the Justice Department on Tuesday demanding an Inspector General investigation into allegations that the department has illegally based hiring decisions for immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and other positions on the candidates’ “perceived political or ideological views.”

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Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are pushing back forcefully against the Trump administration’s new position on whether Native Americans can be forced to comply with Medicaid work requirements, telling TPM that allowing individual states to make that call is a “disaster” with serious “constitutional problems.”

The Trump administration’s lead Medicaid official Seema Verma said Monday in a speech to the American Hospital Association that HHS is dropping its previous claim that giving tribal members any kind of exemption from Medicaid work requirements “could raise civil rights issues,” because it would be an illegal racial preference.

“We believe we can give states flexibility and discretion to implement the community engagement requirements with respect to local tribal members,” Verma said. “We look forward to working with states and tribes to try to help them achieve their goals and determine how to best apply community engagement to serve their populations.”

But Republican and Democratic lawmakers say this new stance is just as bad, if not worse, than the administration’s original position.

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Though Republicans in Congress are pushing a new bill to repeal Obamacare and block-grant Medicaid, it has a slim-to-zero chance of passage this year. The real wars over Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act are still raging on the state level.

Trump’s CMS Administrator Seema Verma made three big announcements on Monday: She approved New Hampshire’s bid to become the fourth state to impose Medicaid work requirements, rejected Kansas’ proposal to kick people off of Medicaid after three years, and punted the decision down to individual states on whether Native Americans have to follow the new Medicaid work rules.

The Kansas waiver denial is significant, sending the message to other states applying for some kind of lifetime limit on Medicaid — including Arizona, Maine, Wisconsin, and Utah — to slow their roll. Even as CMS approves work requirements, premiums, and other hurdles for enrollees in state Medicaid programs, lifetime limits are apparently a bridge too far.

As CMS considers waivers from nearly a dozen more states, Michigan’s Medicaid work requirement proposal has come under fire for privileging the state’s more rural, whiter population over its inner-city residents of color. Michigan’s waiver would exempt people who live in counties where the unemployment rate is higher than 8.5 percent. Even though the unemployment rate is much higher than that in Detroit and Flint, the cities’ more affluent suburbs make the county rate lower overall, meaning people in those cities would not qualify and would have to comply with the work requirement.

Verma said in a Monday speech that Medicaid as it functions today is “on an unsustainable trajectory” and that policies like work requirements can ease the burden. But a new study out of Alaska finds that the requirements might cost even more to implement than they will save — even if, as is predicted, they lead to tens of thousands of people per state losing their health coverage.

Meanwhile, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is still refusing to expand Medicaid six months after residents of his state voted overwhelmingly to do so, and his own Attorney General is refusing to defend him in the ensuing lawsuit. LePage is term-limited out of office this fall, but he may inspire other anti-Medicaid governors to slow-walk their own expansions.

As of this week, Utahans have enough signatures to put a Medicaid expansion on their ballot this November; advocates in Montana are still gathering signatures.

And finally, the prophesied 2019 Obamacare rate hikes have begun to arrive.

On Friday, Virginia’s two biggest insurers announced huge increases for their individual market customers, with some jumping as much as 64 percent. Maryland insurers on Monday asked for rate hikes ranging from 18.5 to 91.4 percent. While most people receive a subsidy and will be protected from the increase, those with middle class incomes will feel the pain. Insurance companies and industry groups have said openly for months that Trump administration policies are largely to blame — including the repeal of the individual mandate, the proliferation of skimpy, deregulated plans, and the sabotage of open enrollment.

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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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