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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

As his administration has steadily chipped away at the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that the public will blame the Democratic Party for any health care fallout.

Now, as Republicans in Congress inch towards striking what could be the biggest blow yet to Obamacare—sticking a provision repealing the individual mandate into their tax bill—even some on the right are starting to sweat that the GOP will fully own the issue going forward.

“You can make an argument that Obamacare is falling of its own weight, until we repeal the individual mandate,” a grave-faced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters in the halls of the Capitol on Thursday. “I hope every Republican knows that when you pass a repeal of the individual mandate, it’s no longer their problem. It becomes our problem.”

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Two weeks after its introduction and following zero hearings, the House of Representatives passed an approximately $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut on Thursday. Most of the focus has been on the bill’s tax benefits for the wealthy and corporations, but some lawmakers are sounding the alarm that passage of the bill will also trigger an estimated $25 billion cut to Medicare.

With the Senate expected to take up its own bill after the Thanksgiving recess, Democrats struggling to mount an opposition to the bill see an opening in its controversial health care impacts—including the Medicare cuts, the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate, and the elimination of the medical expenses deduction in the House bill.

The Medicare cut—announced by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday—can only be waived by a majority of the House and a 60-vote supermajority of the Senate.

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Less than an hour after news broke that a woman had accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct toward her in 2006, before he ran for federal office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for an official investigation into the allegations.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said. “I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else.”

 

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An already chaotic, confusing open enrollment period, run by an administration openly hostile to the Affordable Care Act, just got worse.

As health care consumers across the country find themselves with half as much time to enroll, and with far fewer resources for information and assistance, many people across the country are also receiving renewal notices from their insurers showing wildly inaccurate estimates of how much they will have to pay in premiums.

Government officials and health care experts fear many consumers will not do the research necessary to learn that they qualify for far lower premiums than these letters suggest—depressing overall enrollment and weakening Obamacare’s already vulnerable individual market.

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Despite warnings from one of their own that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate will hike the insurance premiums of millions of middle class Americans, Senate Republicans are moving forward with a tax bill that includes a provision gutting the mandate.

When asked by TPM if the mandate’s repeal would be a “death blow” to the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) first answered “kind of,” then, chuckling, amended his answer to “I hope so.”

Asked if he was concerned that repealing the mandate would—as many experts have predicted—drain the market of young and healthy people, spiking the health care premiums for those who need insurance and remain in the individual market, Inhofe told TPM: “Let’s find out. I don’t know.”

new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the individual mandate would increase premiums at least 10 percent every year for the next 10 years. Through a combination of people choosing to go uninsured and others being priced out of the market due to these rising premiums, the CBO estimates 13 million more people will be uninsured after 10 years if the mandate is repealed.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced earlier on Tuesday that her office had crunched the numbers and found that for many middle class Americans, this insurance price hike would more than cancel out any of the tax breaks they would get from the rest of the GOP’s bill.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has crunched the numbers on repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, and she does not like what she sees.

The morning after Senate Republican leaders gave their blessing for the tax bill to include a provision gutting the mandate, the Maine senator told reporters that her staff used data from the IRS, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Kaiser Family Foundation to calculate that the large increase in health insurance premiums that would result from the mandate’s repeal would more than cancel out the tax breaks many middle class Americans would get from the rest of the GOP tax bill.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

No matter how many times the full or partial repeal of Obamacare has died in Congress this year, it continues to claw its way back from the grave.

The latest incarnation, blessed on Tuesday by Senate GOP leadership, is an amendment to Republicans’ long-awaited tax overhaul bill that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate. Such a policy change would save the government more than $300 billion but cost about 13 million people their health insurance coverage, and drastically hike premiums for those who remain in the individual market, experts say.

Pursuing such a health policy in tandem with tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations is politically risky—and powerful medical organizations are already mobilizing in opposition to the bill.

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

On Tuesday, after weeks of agitation from President Trump and hard-right lawmakers, Senate GOP leadership signaled for the first time that it is amenable to inserting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate into their tax overhaul bill.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful, and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters, indicating that the policy could be inserted during the committee markup process as early as this week.

The office of Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership team, confirmed to TPM that the final Senate tax bill would include the mandate’s repeal.

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The sexual harassment reckoning that has this year descended upon Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the nation’s newsrooms has reached Capitol Hill, where stories about groping lawmakers and abusive senior staffers have simmered for decades. On Tuesday, a House committee held a hearing on a bill that would make sexual harassment training mandatory. Such training is currently voluntary and in the words of one committee member “under-utilized.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) confirmed late Thursday afternoon that the bill would become law. “Going forward, the House will adopt a policy of mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all Members and staff,” he said in a statement. “Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution.”

But Republicans and Democrats alike say this step is not enough, and are demanding reforms to Congress’ process for reporting sexual harassment and assault—a process lawmakers say is “broken,” “from the Dark Ages,” and discourages victims from coming forward.

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