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

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.

The Obama administration is giving people enrolled in a special insurance plan for those with pre-existing conditions an extra month to sign up for new coverage under Obamacare.

People enrolled in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan -- created as a bridge to 2014, when insurers can no longer discriminate against who have pre-existing conditions -- can remain enrolled in the plan through January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday. It had been set to expire at the end of the year.

The plan provides insurance to those high-risk enrollees who were often refused coverage by private insurers prior to the health care reform law because of their medical conditions. It was created when the law was passed in 2010 as a means of providing some people with insurance until the law took full effect next year.

The administration said it made the move so that those enrolled through the program would not experience a lapse in coverage starting Jan. 1. It gives them more time to consider their options -- and ensures that they won't be left without coverage because of problems with HealthCare.gov.

Singer Adam Levine -- People's 2013 Sexiest Man Alive -- is among the celebrities being tapped to promote Obamacare as the law's first enrollment deadline approaches, Bloomberg reports.

The social media campaign -- which will also include actress Fran Drescher (known for "The Nanny" TV series) and actor Kal Penn (Kumar of "Harold and Kumar") -- will launch on Thursday. It will include online videos and outreach on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

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The ongoing problems with Oregon's state-based Obamacare website mean roughly 30,000 people who have applied for health coverage might not see it start on Jan. 1, 2014, as expected.

The Statesman Journal reported that about half of the 65,000 paper applications that the state has received -- the move to paper was necessitated by the broken website -- appear to be incomplete or have errors that prevent officials from processing them.

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Obamacare enrollment picked up in November, more than doubling the low numbers seen in October after HealthCare.gov's troubled rollout, but the pace still lags behind the targets set by the Obama administration.

More than 250,000 people enrolled in private plans last month through HealthCare.gov and the state-based marketplaces, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Add in the 100,000-plus who enrolled in October, and the two-month total comes to nearly 365,000.

But that figure falls short of the administration's pre-launch goals. The White House had been aiming for 500,000 private enrollments in October alone. By the end of 2013, the target was 3.3 million, leaving the administration with a lot of ground to make up this month.

Administration officials still expressed confidence that they could reach their ultimate goal: 7 million enrollees by March 31, 2014.

"We think we're on track, and we'll reach the total that we thought," Michael Hash, whose office is overseeing Obamacare implementation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters Tuesday. "We're only two and a half months into a six-month open enrollment period. Based upon experience such as that in Massachusetts, we expect that a bulk of enrollees will occur toward the end of the enrollment period."

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Going into 2014, the United States is split down the middle: 25 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and 25 states have not.

Those 25 non-expanding states have left five million people below the poverty line uncovered under the health care reform law, but the White House isn't giving up the fight. Administration officials is actively stumping for expansion, holding conference calls with local officials and reporters and attending advocacy events in 11 of the non-expanding states since the beginning of November.

They think they've got quite a pitch. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs through 2016 and never less than 90 percent after that. That deal has already won over some GOP governors, and Obamacare supporters hope it will convince more. That's the leverage the administration and others plan to wield against skeptical state officials.

"I'm not sure there's a very good case for state legislators or governors to explain to people why they oppose Medicaid expansion," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a question from TPM during a Monday conference call. "It's unfortunate when the stakes are this high, when we're talking about giving people access to quality, affordable health insurance that there are still some politicians who would allow politics to get in the way. That is a tough case to make publicly."

Community organizations and lobbying groups for the medical industry have pledged to push state legislatures when they reconvene in the next year. For their biggest prize -- Texas -- they'll have to wait until lawmakers come back in 2015.

But the battle for many of the other states will begin in the new year. Here's a look at five states among the most likely to reverse course and expand Medicaid in the near future.

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