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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

Among their many anti-Obamacare gambits during the government shutdown debacle, House Republicans voted to strip federal employer contributions for health insurance from themselves and their staffs.

It was a problem of their own making. A GOP-pushed amendment to the Affordable Care Act had required members of Congress and their staffs to purchase health coverage through the law's health insurance marketplace. Later, after outcry from staffers who were facing what amounted to a significant pay cut, the federal Office of Personnel Management said that they could still use the employer contribution from the federal government to help pay for it.

The GOP said that wasn't fair. So they voted on Sept. 30, on the eve of shutdown, to fund the government but prevent themselves and their staffs from using that employer contribution -- the so-called Vitter amendment, named for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who pushed the policy. It passed with 228 votes (nine Democrats joined 219 Republicans).

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"60 Minutes" received another round of criticism Sunday for what critics called soft coverage of the National Security Agency -- and the next morning, the host of that segment was reported to be taking a job in intelligence or counterterrorism.

The news program was given "unprecedented access" to the agency and its employees, said host John Miller at the outset of the report -- where he did note that he had formerly worked in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

But the Daily Beast and Huffington Post have reported in recent days that Miller was under consideration for a job at the NYPD in an intelligence or counterterrorism role. On Monday, the New York Post's Page Six reported that Miller was on the verge of taking such a job.

Miller, who had previously worked for new NYPD chief Bill Bratton in New York as a spokesperson and Los Angeles as counterterrorism chief, did not mention any pending career move during the segment. A spokesperson for "60 Minutes" did not immediately return TPM's requests for comment.

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Insurance companies plan to spend a combined $500 million in local television advertising in 2014, according to the Washington Post -- more than double what they spent in 2012.

There is one obvious culprit: Obamacare.

Insurers look at these next few years as a gold rush. Tens of millions of people will be buying private insurance of the exchanges. It's a swarm of customers like nothing they've ever seen. And they plan to capture them — even if they need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do so.

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Nearly 15,000 insurance applications submitted through HealthCare.gov during the website's troubled rollout were never received by insurers, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

The federal government does not know which individual applications failed to reach the companies, according to the Post. But officials told the newspaper that the situation was improving.

In a blog post published Saturday, Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that the rate of errant applications had dropped from a high of 15 percent in mid-October to less than 0.4 percent in the early days of December.

"To make sure that no consumer falls through the cracks because of earlier pervasive troubles with the site, we are contacting every consumer who has selected a plan through the Federal Marketplace to remind them to pay their premium and connect with their insurer," Bataille wrote.

Federal officials have said repeatedly in recent weeks that consumers should contact their insurer to verify that their application had been processed properly.

About 137,000 people selected an insurance plan through HealthCare.gov in October and November.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama lit 26 candles at the White House to honor the victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

After lighting the candles, the president and his wife had a moment of silence, according to pool reports. Obama did not make any remarks, though he devoted his weekly address to calling for action.

A federal court has invalidated a Utah law that prohibited co-habitation between a married person and another adult who was not his or her spouse -- a law that had been part of the state's legal infrastructure banning polygamy, BuzzFeed reports.

The ruling does not legalize polygamy, according to BuzzFeed, but does permit "religious co-habitation." Polygamous households are still prohibited from seeking multiple marriage licenses from the state.

The case had been brought by the Brown family, stars of the TV show "Sister Wives".

In his weekly address on the anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed more than 20, President Barack Obama said Saturday that the United States needed to "do more" to prevent such tragedies from happening.

"We haven’t yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer," Obama said. "We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for."

The president didn't call for any specific action, but he urged supporters to push for change rather than wait for Congress.

"We can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come – from you. From the American people," he said.

Fox News host Megyn Kelly insisted Friday that her earlier comment that Santa Claus was "just white," which invited significant backlash, had been a joke -- and that her critics were just looking for an excuse to call her a racist.

"In kicking off the light-hearted segment, I offered a tongue-in-cheek message for any kids watching, saying that Santa -- who I joked was a real person whose race was identifiable -- is white," Kelly said. "Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show, but sometimes, that is lost on the humorless."

She then lambasted her critics for failing to get the joke.

"This would be funny if it were not so telling about our society," she continued. "In particular, the knee-jerk instinct by so many to race-bait and to assume the worst of people, especially people employed by the very powerful Fox News Channel."

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Obamacare advocates are actively recruiting those left out of the Medicaid expansion in Republican-controlled states to lobby state officials to change their minds and participate in that key provision of the health care reform law.

So far, the effort is most organized in Texas, which is also the state with the most people in that Medicaid expansion gap: 1 million. But it's likely to pick up elsewhere as the Obama administration and outside advocates apply pressure to the 25 states that have resisted expansion for the first year.

Texas Left Me Out, the combined effort of several community groups, is a website designed to collect those people's stories and organize them into a cohesive political action constituency. It asks those in the Medicaid gap to sign a petition to stay informed about advocacy events and share their story on the site.

Are they going to turn Texas blue on the backs of people who have traditionally been ignored by Republicans? Are they going to convince an anti-Obamacare stalwart like Rick Perry to buy into the law? That's a tough sell. But they're going to try.

"When you personalize a policy, when you make it real, it's always much more powerful. It's always going to resonate," Tiffany Hogue, state health care campaign coordinator at the Texas Organizing Project, one of the groups involved with the campaign, told TPM. "People have really have awakened to the fact that people really are getting left behind."

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The Obama administration will require insurance companies to give people enrolling in health coverage under Obamacare until the ball drops on New Year's Eve to pay their first premium -- and is encouraging carriers to be even more flexible.

The new rules and recommendations were set out Thursday. They come amid growing concerns that people who have signed up for coverage, but have not yet paid their first premium, might see their coverage interrupted or delayed if they forget to pay that initial amount.

The administration will require insurers to accept premium payments through Dec. 31 for coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

On top of that, the administration is urging companies to allow people to make their first payment after Jan. 1 and apply their coverage retroactively to the first of the year. But carriers will have discretion about whether they will implement that policy.

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