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

August is usually time for Washington to catch its breath, with Congress and the president out of town on recess. But this August brought a non-stop barrage of news, from the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey, to the pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s federal contempt charge, to mutual saber rattling with a potentially nuclear-armed North Korea, to the death of a protester at the hand of a white supremacist in Charlottesville.

September promises to be just as wild, especially in the health care space.

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President Donald Trump returned to the Houston area on Saturday to meet with survivors of Hurricane Harvey and participate in relief efforts—which he did not do during his first visit to the disaster-stricken region earlier this week.

In a visit to one of Houston’s designated emergency refuge areas, the NRG Center, Trump told reporters he is seeing “a lot of happiness.”

“It’s been really nice,” he said, according to the traveling press pool. “It’s been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing, I think even for the country to watch it and for the world to watch. It’s been beautiful.”

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Early on Friday, the New York Times reported on the existence of a letter from President Donald Trump, co-written by White House aide Stephen Miller, laying out his true motivations for firing then-FBI Director James Comey. That letter, the Times said, is now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Comey’s ouster as a potential obstruction of justice.

Since then, more details have emerged.

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On a call with reporters this week, a Trump administration official who asked not to be identified refused to say exactly what the government will and won’t do to uphold and promote the Affordable Care Act during this fall’s open enrollment period.

The New York Times reported that the message conveyed in the meeting was that the Trump administration “will do the minimum necessary to comply with the law,” but no more, raising existing fears that the government’s inaction will intentionally depress insurance signups.

Here is how the unnamed official with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) addressed the biggest unknowns about the future of Obamacare:

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Congress returns next week to a nightmarishly short calendar during which they must pass a host of bills to keep the government running, including the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which provides health coverage to millions of children in low-income families and expires on Sept. 30.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Republicans may attempt to use the CHIP deadline as a vehicle to revive their effort to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, and could try to attach amendments to the bill to reauthorize its funding.

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Richard Trumka, the president of the nation’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO, told reporters Wednesday morning that he has no regrets about quitting the Trump administration’s manufacturing committee in the wake of the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, and blasted the White House as a combination of people who are “racist” and “Wall Streeters.”

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Is Medicaid “insurance” or is it “welfare”?

The battle taking place in Maine right now over this semantic question could determine whether the state becomes the first in the nation to adopt Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion by popular vote.

Mainers have until Friday to weigh in on the exact wording of a ballot initiative, which if it passes would allow Maine to join the 30-plus states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Conservative groups and state Republicans, led by Maine’s firebrand Gov. Paul LePage (R), are pushing for the Medicaid expansion to be characterized on the ballot as welfare in the hopes that people will then vote it down.

“It’s free health care paid for by the taxpayers, and it’s got to be said that way,” LePage told talk radio hosts at WGAN last Thursday. “It’s pure welfare. If you don’t want to call it welfare, call it an entitlement.”

In the same interview, LePage threatened to sue the secretary of state if the final ballot language calls the Medicaid expansion “insurance.”

“I’m going to challenge that,” he vowed.

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