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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

The Obama administration introduced Wednesday consumer protections against fraud that will inevitably pop up as the Affordable Care Act rolls out next month.

Among the top measures is the call center for the federal-run health insurance marketplace, which will serve consumers in more than 30 states. Staff will be trained to handle consumer complaints and refer them to the Federal Trade Commission. The marketplace's website will also include a link to the FTC's online consumer complaint center.

All complaints will be logged in a FTC database that will be accessible by federal and state officials, senior administration officials told reporters in a conference call, including state attorneys general and U.S. district attorneys. A monitoring system will also be in place on the back end of the federal marketplace, so officials will be immediately informed if a marketplace worker tries to access information outside of their security clearance.

A rapid-response system has been set up so such breaches can be mitigated and reports can be filed to initiate criminal investigations if necessary, the officials said.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez met Wednesday at the White House with senior administration officials and select state policymakers to go over the plans.

As the Washington Post has reported, scams centered on Obamacare have already been identified and more are expected once the law's enrollment period begins on Oct. 1. Some fake insurance marketplace websites have been taken down; other reports indicate that scammers are calling individuals, asking for personal information for reasons associated with the 2010 health care reform law.

Other potential schemes could target seniors enrolled in Medicare, who would be told that they need to sign up for Obamacare, according to the senior administration officials.

The officials said that current fraud was relatively limited, and the plans announced Wednesday were intended to be preemptive.

"This is not a situation where we are seeing any large amount of fraud at this point," one official said, "but this is about being ahead of the issues."

Congressional Democratic leaders portrayed the House GOP's plan to pass a government spending bill that simultaneously defunds Obamacare -- sure to be stopped by the Senate -- as detached from reality.

"This is fantasy politics with real world consequences," Rep. Peter Welch (VT) said alongside House Democratic Caucus chair Xavier Becerra (CA) and vice chair Joe Crowley (NY) after the caucus's Wednesday meeting. "The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress. It was upheld by the Supreme Court. It was a major issue in the election. The guy against it lost. The guy for it won. The House Republicans know the Senate won't pass this fantasy. They know the president won't sign this fantasy. But they insist in pursuing this fantasy. At a certain point, it's like: Sober up. Get real."

Becerra reiterated that no House Democrats would vote for spending or debt limit bills that affected Obamacare.

Joining a growing conservative movement around the country, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) made a move Tuesday that's likely to impede efforts to sign up the uninsured for health insurance under Obamacare starting next month.

Perry sent a letter to the Texas Department of Insurance outlining new rules for Obamacare's so-called navigators, organizations assigned to help people sign up for coverage, the Texas Tribune reported. Those rules include: 40 hours of mandatory security training on top of federally required training. He also wants navigators to pass a state-administered exam and be subjected to background checks.

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George Elmaraghy, a top watchdog at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, says he was forced to leave his job for running afoul of the coal industry and Gov. John Kasich.

Elmaraghy explained the chain of events in an extensive phone interview with TPM. His story -- which the Ohio EPA and Kasich's office declined to comment on -- suggests an administration beholden to the coal industry and willing to push out employees who weren't going to capitulate to its demands.

It started about nine months ago when coal companies came to the state EPA with plans for mining permits that Elmaraghy said would have violated rules set by the U.S. EPA. Elmaraghy reviewed those permits, one of his duties as the head of the surface water division.

In conversations with the companies, he explained that the federal agency would likely reject the proposals because they violated federal law and encouraged the companies to alter their permit applications so they would be approved.

The coal companies didn't like Elmaraghy's response and went straight to the governor's office roughly three months ago, he said. The governor's staff worked alongside the coal companies to craft a permit application that was more to their liking.

Then on Aug. 9, Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally told Elmaraghy that the governor's office wanted Elmaraghy, a 39-year veteran of the agency, gone. He would either resign by Sept. 13 or be fired.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Tuesday that she believes enough Republicans might balk at deep cuts to food stamps being proposed by Republican leadership to stop the bill.

"We're optimistic that we can win this vote," Pelosi said. "Maybe I'm just hoping for divine intervention, but I really do believe that there are enough Republicans who will not identify themselves with such a cut."

As TPM reported Tuesday, the whip count for the bill -- drafted by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to appease the right wing of his party -- looks uncertain. If enough moderate Republicans abandon the bill on the floor, it could fail. A vote is expected by the end of the week.

John Boehner (R-OH) is about to face another big test of whether fractious House Republicans can get their act together enough to agree among themselves on key legislation. And it's going to be a tough one.

By the end of the week, the House is expected to vote on legislation that would slash funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, by $39 billion over 10 years. Made to appease the right wing of the GOP conference, the proposal could lose the support of some moderate Republicans, maybe enough to kill the bill.

That'd be a major embarrassment for GOP leadership, after they were forced to pull a version of the farm bill in June that included $20 billion in food stamp cuts because they couldn't garner enough support from conservatives, who wanted deeper reductions. Now the revised proposal, drafted primarily by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to win those votes, could be too harsh for some in the party's center.

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Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, told reporters Tuesday that his committee could evaluate the background check procedures for military contractors in response to Monday's Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shootings.

The alleged shooter, Aaron Alexis, was a military contractor and former member of the Navy reserve. According to reports, his military contractor status gave him access to the building where the shooting occurred. Prior to Monday's shooting, Alexis had been arrested for multiple gun-related incidents and been treated for mental illness.

"I think there's a real interest in making sure we're focusing on background checks for contractors, those who are working for contractors," Carper told reporters. "To make sure they're being diligent, asking the right questions and getting the right answers."

"When you look at the troubled history of the shooter in this case, it causes me to ask some questions: Were we aware of this? Whoever did the background check, were they aware of the earlier arrests, the charges? I'm not sure that they were. So we're going to drill down on this."

The committee may end up holdings hearings on the issue, Carper said.

Republicans like the 2010 health care law better when it's called by its proper name -- the Affordable Care Act -- instead of Obamacare, according to a new Fox News poll.

Republican support for the law jumped eight percent, from 14 percent for Obamacare to 22 percent for the Affordable Care Act, when pollsters revised the question's language.

Overall support increased from 34 percent to 39 percent with the change. Democratic support moved one percent; independent support rose four percent.

The poll of 900 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 6 to 9, using live telephone interviews. According to the poll, 443 people were asked about Obamacare; 457 were asked about the Affordable Care Act.

Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced Monday that he would agree to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, adding his state to the short but growing list of GOP-controlled states that have signed onto one of the law's key provisions.

Corbett's acceptance comes with a few caveats. He wants to use Medicaid money to purchase private health coverage for low-income people on the law's health insurance marketplaces rather than enroll them in traditional Medicaid, a concept first introduced by Arkansas earlier this year. He also wants to require that Medicaid enrollees meet work-search requirements to receive benefits and pay small monthly premiums.

"The goal is very simple: All Pennsylvanians should have access to quality, affordable health care," Corbett said at a press conference announcing his plan. "Today I will be sending a formal proposal to the Obama administration, a Pennsylvania plan, based on common sense, common-sense reforms to our Medicaid program to make it sustainable now and in the future."

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An eyewitness to the aftermath of Monday's shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard described the chaotic situation to TPM, including a moment where she watched a wounded man being dragged away from the scene.

Bettina Ramon, a 33-year-old employee at Calvary Women's Services, said she arrived at 8:30 a.m. ET on the corner of M Street and New Jersey Avenue to catch a bus, half a mile away from the Naval Sea Systems Command building where the shooting took place. She initially didn't pay attention to a few police cars headed toward the building. "That's kind of typical," she said.

But then the volume of police cars increased and another bystander told Ramon and others that shots had been fired. Little did Ramon know, she had arrived at the bus stop at the same time that the shootings reportedly started.

"Things just really picked up after that," she said. "It's kind of a blur. It was happening so fast."

At some point, Ramon said she and some other bystanders at the bus stop saw a man being dragged across a street in front of a CVS pharmacy. At first, Ramon thought the man had suffered a heart attack until other bystanders deduced that he had been shot, based on reports from Twitter. After that, she tried to look away.

The wounded man, who was wearing khaki pants and a blue button-up shirts, did not appear to be a law enforcement officer. People were attending to him on the ground in front of the pharmacy, though Ramon never saw him taken away from the scene in an ambulance.

Ramon said she never heard any gun shots, nor saw anybody who appeared to be a gunman.

Police at the scene didn't tell bystanders what was happening, Ramon said, and she didn't ask. She was looking for a way to leave the scene.

"I think I felt at first confused, scared. Both of those feelings started increasing. I wound up feeling terrified," Ramon said. "I just wanted to leave. I just wanted to get out of there. I couldn't figure out how to do that."

Eventually, she asked a man in uniform if she could leave and was given the OK after being stuck there for about 20 minutes.

Correction: This post has been updated to correct the name of Ramon's employer to Calvary Women's Services.

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