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

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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As White House spokespeople blithely insist that everything is fine between the Republican president and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, the relationship continues to deteriorate—with vague sniping in the press escalating into screaming private phone calls and public call-outs at rallies and on Twitter.

Always one who thrives on attacking a real or invented enemy, President Donald Trump, whose party controls every level of power in Washington, has targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for ridicule, blaming him for just how little Republicans have been able to accomplish in 2017.

The president has also gone after individual lawmakers in his own party, threatening to primary some of the Senate’s most vulnerable GOP members and publicly and privately berating others.

The attacks could not come at a worse time.

Because Congress ate up so much of the year with a failed push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have an extremely narrow time frame left to pass a budget, raise the debt ceiling, reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Flood Insurance Program and appropriate funding to stabilize Obamacare’s marketplaces. This would be a challenge even with full support from the White House, but it becomes nearly impossible with a president whose spasms of rage, loose grasp of policy, and itchy Twitter finger threaten to derail the delicate deal-making process.

Here comes the September from hell.

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President Donald Trump is “seriously considering” killing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, according to multiple reports. The exact timing remains uncertain, though immigration advocates are treating a decision as potentially imminent, perhaps as early as Friday.

DACA has since 2012 extended legal status and work permits to more than 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Ending the program would make this population, known as the DREAMers, vulnerable to deportation.

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A staffer with the House Appropriations Committee confirmed to TPM on Wednesday that they plan to use a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government past the end of September and avoid a potentially embarrassing and destructive government shutdown.

Despite House Speaker Paul Ryan’s repeated promises to return to so-called “regular order” in passing government spending bills, Congress has over his tenure so far continued to kick the can down the road without drafting and voting on a regular budget.

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With the Trump administration sending clear signals that it is open to state requests to rewrite their laws governing both Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces—requests that the Obama administration roundly rejected and that could roll back coverage for hundreds of thousands of people—waivers are pouring in.

This week, Iowa submitted a final proposal to drastically overhaul its ACA compliance. It would change Obamacare’s subsidy structure in the state so that people would receive tax credits based on their age and income, not on the cost of their insurance plan. It also creates a reinsurance program and eliminates the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) federal payments that subsidize care for the lowest-income and sickest patients in the state.

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Obamacare has dodged many bullets over the past few weeks.

Bills in Congress that would have gutted Medicaid and repealed the ACA crashed and burned. President Donald Trump, after threatening for months to cut off billions of dollars in subsidies to insurers, caved and made the August payment. The Trump administration is, so far, enforcing the ACA’s individual mandate. And despite dire warning that dozens of counties would be left with no insurers, nearly every single one has been covered.

But health care experts and advocates tell TPM that Medicaid and the individual markets remain under the gun, with various looming threats from Congress and Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here are the five ways the Trump administration and Hill Republicans could still go after the nation’s health care system in the months ahead.

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The Trump administration is preparing to roll back the Obama-era free birth control mandate, a move legal groups say would be unconstitutional and subject to a court challenge.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the rule will be very similar to a draft version leaked in May, which would vastly expand the number and types of businesses eligible for an exemption from Obamacare’s rule requiring all employers to provide insurance coverage of all contraceptive methods without co-pays. If enacted as drafted, it would allow not only religious groups but thousands of non-profits and for-profit businesses to leave birth control out of their employees’ insurance altogether.

Lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, National Women’s Law Center and other groups say such a rule would violate government process rules, gender discrimination laws, the separation of church and state.

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The top Democrats on an array of House and Senate committee that deal with health care have fired off a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price demanding a briefing before the end of the month on what the lawmakers call the Trump administration’s “ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.”

The letter cites several news investigations—including TPM’s report on HHS abandoning its partnerships with Latino, African American, youth, and women’s groups—and asks the department to immediately explain what it is doing to uphold and promote the Affordable Care Act as the open enrollment period approaches.

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