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Sam Stein
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Sam Stein is the Senior Politics Editor at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at stein@huffingtonpost.com.

Entries by Sam Stein

Dispatches From An Obamacare Slugfest

(86) Comments | Posted March 4, 2015 | 11:39 PM

WASHINGTON -- Phil Kerpen confessed he was getting cold. The president of the conservative group American Commitment and prolific social media presence behind the lawsuit over Obamacare’s subsidy regime had been wandering outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning without long sleeves.

The forecast predicted temperatures in the mid-40s....

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Congrats Young Scientists, You Face The Worst Research Funding In 50 Years

(82) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 8:37 PM

WASHINGTON -- Young scientists entering biomedical research find themselves in the worst financial environment in a half a century, the head of the National Institutes of Health said Tuesday.

In an appearance before the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Dr. Francis Collins offered a familiar warning to lawmakers...

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O'Malley Won't Run For The Senate

(29) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 8:10 AM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barbara Mikulski's (D) decision to retire after five terms in office set off a wave of speculation about which of the myriad Maryland Democrats would run to replace her. On the top of that list was the state's former Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is eying another run...

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Courting Disaster: How Losing Health Insurance Would Change The Lives Of One Breast Cancer Survivor And Her Mother

(2) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Karen Hines tell her story.

Obamacare allowed Karen Hines, a three-time breast cancer survivor, to get health insurance she was denied before because of her medical history. It also gave her the financial help she needed to buy it. But if those subsidies disappear after a Supreme Court ruling in June, Hines is mostly worried about what will happen to her ailing mother.

Hines spends her days caring for her 84-year-old mother, who suffered a stroke in 2010 and has dementia, in their Virginia Beach home. Hines, 59, is able to do so because she has her own health care needs covered, but if she lost the subsidies she’d have to return to full-time work that provides health benefits. That would mean her mother would have to spend more time away at elder care and less time at home with her daughter.

“It would be tough on my mother,” Hines said. “It would be harder on her to go to day care more for a longer period of time, because she needs a break and she needs some rest.”

Finding a job that provides health care wouldn’t be easy for Hines. She left behind her career in public relations more than a decade ago to pursue graduate studies in American history, aiming to become an educator. Her third breast cancer diagnosis in 2009 and the side effects of chemotherapy interrupted her studies and teaching work, and she took medical leave in 2013. She hasn’t worked since, and subsists on the “pittance” she receives for looking after her mother.

“Look, life’s not really hopeful out there for a 59-year-old to go into the workforce again,” Hines said. “Considering that I was in graduate school and so away from my longest type of employment, my skills are not current.”

Hines pays about $250 a month for her health insurance, after a subsidy of more than $200. She got the insurance on a federal health insurance exchange because Virginia didn't set up one. The lawsuit before the Supreme Court claims only state-run exchanges can distribute subsidies. She figures she could dig deeper into her retirement savings to pay the full price for about a year, but doesn’t know how she’d cope after that.

Even during that first year, Hines would have to cut back on her coverage and her medical care, a dicey proposition for someone still at risk for cancer even after having both her breasts and her ovaries removed.

“I’ll scrimp back as far as I can to make sure that I can cover catastrophic care,” Hines said. “Everything else goes.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously said Medicaid pays Karen Hines to care for her mother.
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Courting Disaster: To Keep Health Coverage, House Painter Would Work Himself Sick

(9) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Joe Lucas tell his story.

Joe Lucas paints houses, and he’s worked for decades to set himself up for retirement. He paid off his house early, and now that he’s in his 50s, he hopes to start winding down his career and getting ready for the next phase of his life. But thanks to the looming Supreme Court decision, he might have to scrap those plans.

Health care costs were the big wild card, a fact driven home in 2010 when Lucas, who had no insurance, suffered an aortic aneurysm. The $69,000 hospital bill got paid in the end when Lucas learned he’d become eligible for Medicaid, but the episode was a wake-up call. That’s when he ran into the pre-Affordable Care Act health insurance market.

“I can’t let this happen again, so I was looking to purchase insurance,” said Lucas, 52. But his history of heart problems made him too much of a risk for the insurance companies serving his home city of Pittsburgh. “I was finding out that nobody wanted to sell me insurance.”

Lucas later signed up for a temporary Obamacare program for people with pre-existing conditions, at a cost of $279 a month. He enrolled in a private insurance policy last year through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges that costs him about $150 a month, after a $220 tax credit.

The subsidies have made it possible “to take it just slightly easier and not have to kill myself,” said Lucas, who uses four medications daily to control his blood pressure and needs $11,000 worth of tests on his heart every year.

If the Supreme Court rules that subsidies on federally run exchanges, like the one Lucas used in Pennsylvania, are illegal, he is determined not to lose his coverage. “If I don’t have the insurance, I can’t see my cardiologist, that means I don’t get prescriptions for my blood pressure -- which is what’s basically keeping me in good health,” he said.

Lucas said he’d have to try to pile on more work, if he can find it, to keep his insurance.

“I worked 40 to 60 hours for almost 30 years. So I kind of figured that between 50 and 70, I was hoping to slow down,” he said. “It definitely would erode time off my lifespan.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.
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Courting Disaster: 'There's No Humanity In What's Going On'

(19) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Jared Blitz tell his story.

If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare subsidies in more than 30 states are illegal, millions will lose their health insurance because they won’t be able to afford it. Others will keep their plans in spite of the subsidies disappearing -- and that’s a problem, too.

Jared Blitz, 33, knows he needs medical care and has a costly surgery on the horizon. Because his subsidy is small, he plans to keep his insurance even if the high court rules against the law.

“For somebody like me, I can handle it,” said Blitz, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. “I also think of health care as being one of the major priorities because I have a heart condition, so if I have to pay a higher premium, that’s something I don’t have an issue with. So the subsidies would be nice, but I can make due if I don’t have it, just because I’ll sacrifice elsewhere.”

Eliminating the subsidies will drive people out of the insurance market, and those who remain will mainly be people with costly medical conditions who need the coverage most, like Blitz. This will drive up costs for insurers and lead to rate hikes for everyone left in an increasingly volatile market.

Blitz was born with a heart condition called aortic valve stenosis, meaning one of his heart valves is too narrow. Soon, perhaps later this year, he will need another surgery to stay alive. The operation cost $200,000 when he was 17, and his next will cost about $50,000. Blitz also needs tests on his heart every year that cost up to $3,000.

Blitz went uninsured for a time after finishing graduate school as he endured rejections by health insurers. One company offered to insure everything but his heart, essentially providing useless coverage for someone with his condition. He finally settled for a plan that exposed him to unlimited out-of-pocket costs and would have left big expenses uncovered if he’d needed surgery or had a medical emergency.

When Affordable Care Act enrollment started, Blitz signed up for a plan with better coverage than his old insurance at a slightly lower cost. He gets a small subsidy that was $50 a month last year and $20 a month this year. Blitz earns about $25,000 a year as a part-time college professor. Arizona’s health insurance exchange is run by the federal government because the state declined to establish its own.The lawsuit before the Supreme Court claims subsidies are only legal in state-run exchanges, not federal ones.

What really concerns Blitz is the possibility that the Affordable Care Act’s rule that insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions will go away, something congressional Republicans favor as part of repealing Obamacare.

“They may as well line me up and kick me in the balls,” Blitz said. “That’s just brutal to do to people. I don’t get it. There’s no humanity in what’s going on.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.
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Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These 6 Lives Hang In The Balance

(340) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM

Obamacare is back before the Supreme Court in a case that could gut the health care law and leave millions of Americans facing severe consequences.

King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that originated in conservative and libertarian think tanks, alleges that a stray phrase in the Affordable...

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Courting Disaster: Going Without Health Insurance Could 'Bankrupt Me,' Chicago Man With Skin Cancer Says

(1) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Dave Price tell his story.

Over the last eight years, Dave Price has beaten skin cancer, struggled with the transition into a new career in his 50s and eaten away at the savings he worked decades to build. What happens next is in the hands of the nine justices on the Supreme Court.

Price, 59, is covered by a health insurance plan he bought from an Obamacare exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t be turned down because of his pre-existing condition. His family income of less than $30,000 a year means he and his wife, who live in Chicago, qualify for tax credits that make the coverage affordable. If the Supreme Court invalidates those subsidies in Illinois and more than 30 other states, Price faces a decision: tap even deeper into his retirement fund to pay for health insurance, or leave the cancer unchecked. It’s not much of a choice, he said.

“If they pull the subsidy, we’re going to have to stay in ACA and pay the full cost,” Price said. That would mean more than $13,000 a year in health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Price said his twice-yearly cancer checkups cost $2,000 each, and having new melanomas removed costs up to $5,000. “I joke around with my kids that with the cancer, they’re burying me a piece at a time,” he said.

Price was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007. At the time, he had health insurance from his job, where he worked as an operations director for a manufacturing company. That coverage paid for $85,000 worth of cancer treatments. Price left his job in 2010 to go to graduate school to become an adult educator. He currently works part-time as a job trainer at a community college.

Before Obamacare, health insurance and out-of-pocket costs came to about $10,000 a year, and Price spent down his savings and tapped his retirement fund to get by. When he signed up for insurance on the exchange, his costs went way down.

“The difference was, my premiums went from $5,600 a year to $1,800 -- basically saving $3,800 a year,” Price said. “Most of that savings is from the ACA subsidy.” Price and his wife receive a tax credit worth a little under $300 a month. Their insurance plan is comparable, and in some ways better, than what he had prior to Obamacare, he said.

“I have to keep insurance,” Price said. “The melanomas, if I catch them early, are three to five grand apiece. If I were to have anything like the one I had before, it would bankrupt me.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad...

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Courting Disaster: 'Obamacare Came Just In Time For Us'

(2) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Jay Joshi tell her story.

When Jay Joshi first heard about the Supreme Court case that could take away the health insurance subsidies that enabled her family to get covered, “it came as a total shock,” she said.

Joshi’s husband, Kaye, has diabetes and was uninsured before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The family was paying full price for his insulin at the pharmacy or stocking up on cheaper medicines during their visits every two years to India, the country they left more than three decades ago for life in the United States.

“He’s 62 and I’m 60, so this is the age when I think health issues start cropping up. So we really needed some health insurance, and Obamacare came just in time for us,” said Joshi, who lives in Richardson, Texas, outside Dallas. The couple and their two sons got subsidized coverage for less than $300 a month on the state’s insurance exchange, which is run by the federal government. The lawsuit before the Supreme Court alleges only exchanges created by states themselves are permitted to provide these tax credits.

Things have been tougher since Jay Joshi’s career as a travel agent dried up and the family’s laundromat went out of business during the economic downturn. Kaye Joshi has only ever run small businesses and has no experience doing anything else, but the family doesn’t have the money to open a new one. Jay Joshi has been working part-time as an after-school teacher, but they’ve had to spend down their savings.

Having a pre-existing condition kept her husband without health coverage even when things were going better, Joshi said. “It was very, very difficult -- almost impossible -- to get him insurance, and my greatest fear was if something was to happen to him and he had to be hospitalized, that would be a big expense for us,” she said. Health care already ate up a quarter of the family’s budget even without a catastrophe, she said.

When they got Obamacare, it was "a sigh of relief for us,” Joshi said. The "nervous edge" she felt about the financial toll of an unseen health emergency dissipated. Losing their health insurance subsidies now, however, would put the Joshi family back at square one.

“I’ve just been keeping my fingers crossed that Obamacare is not taken away, the subsidy is not taken away," Joshi said. "Because I believe, looking at my invoice that I have, it’s something that I don’t think I can afford without the subsidy.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.
...

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Courting Disaster: After Liver Transplant, Anxiety About Health Care Costs Without Obamacare

(6) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 6:00 AM


Press play to hear Sheila Tyson tell her story.

A sudden illness nearly killed Sheila Tyson two years ago, throwing her life into disarray. She lost her job and burned through every penny she had -- and then some. Affordable health insurance is keeping her alive and afloat today, but that could soon change just as suddenly.

Tyson, 59, needed a liver transplant in 2013 after the Hepatitis C she’d had for years rapidly worsened. Luckily, her doctors found a donor within three weeks and the surgery went well, but her recovery was complicated when her Hepatitis returned. A new drug called Sovaldi, which costs more than $80,000, cured her, but Tyson couldn’t go back to work and her employer cut her off.

With that job went the health benefits, forcing Tyson to pay $600 a month for COBRA coverage, plus another $200 for medications, at a time when she wasn’t bringing home a paycheck.

“I was faced with no insurance, faced with no income and I want to live,” Tyson said. “I was about to lose everything -- my house, my car, my dignity. I mean, my life.”

When enrollment under the Affordable Care Act started in the fall of 2013, Tyson, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, signed up for a subsidized plan that cost $19 a month. Alabama relies on a federally run health insurance exchange, which makes Tyson vulnerable to losing her coverage if the Supreme Court rules against the law later this year after hearing oral arguments Wednesday.

Tyson still hasn’t been able to find work, despite a full recovery. Without a job, she tries to get by on $900 a month in disability benefits and $90 in food assistance. Subsidized health insurance has helped her maintain her health and manage her expenses, but her situation is precarious.

“I have nothing left. I’m struggling today,” Tyson said.

Without the subsidies, Tyson simply wouldn’t be able to afford the insurance. “No way. If I did keep it, I would be choosing between having a roof over my head and my life,” she said. “Where would I cut corners? It would be food -- I would be trying to go to food banks.”

So after narrowly avoiding a medical and financial disaster two years ago, Tyson could end up facing a life-or-death threat again: unable to afford doctor visits or drugs she needs to keep taking to prevent her body from rejecting her new liver.

“It would be a waste of me even getting a transplant, basically,” she said.

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.
...

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Language Experts Make An Interesting Case For Why Obamacare Will Be Preserved

(52) Comments | Posted March 2, 2015 | 4:14 PM

WASHINGTON -- It’s difficult to think of when so much has ever ridden on the interpretation of just six words. But that’s how things stand in the twisted, tortured legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act now before the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments on...

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The Spiritual Allure Of Dr. Ben Carson

(672) Comments | Posted March 1, 2015 | 9:34 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Other speakers had rowdier receptions and larger followings. But few who appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past week had an emotional pull on the audience quite like Dr. Ben Carson.

The renowned pediatric neurosurgeon-turned-Obama antagonist-turned-conservative darling drew a less than ideal slot...

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Ted Cruz Makes A Crude Bill Clinton Joke And Some Important Policy News

(233) Comments | Posted February 26, 2015 | 4:02 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday filled with so many red-meat applause lines that it will likely overshadow some important policy pronouncements he made at the end.

On two major planks of the culture wars, the...

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John Barrasso: Republicans Are Not Prepared To Fix Obamacare

(226) Comments | Posted February 26, 2015 | 12:44 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- A Republican-run Congress will not support a quick legislative fix should the Supreme Court rule that a large chunk of Obamacare's health care subsidies are illegal, a leading GOP senator said Thursday.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told conservatives gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action...

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Democrats Are Roaming The Halls Of CPAC, Hoping To Capture A Viral Blunder

(7) Comments | Posted February 26, 2015 | 11:40 AM

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists and party leaders, has in recent years become a comparatively glitzy affair. Organizers moved it from a stuffy hotel in northwest D.C. to a sprawling complex 20 miles away in Maryland. And the activists and...

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Bitter Fights Over DHS Brought Down A Democrat In 2002. Could It Happen To The GOP In 2016?

(33) Comments | Posted February 25, 2015 | 1:55 PM

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 13 years later, it remains one of the most infamous campaign ads of the post 9/11 era.

A 30-second spot that then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) ran against Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002 earned its notoriety by casting Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran, as soft on...

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Days Before DHS Funding Runs Out, The Post-Shutdown Debate Is Heating Up

(1186) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 6:11 PM

WASHINGTON -- TSA agents would remain in airports, patrol agents would still be manning the border and Coast Guard officers would continue monitoring the waters if the Department of Homeland Security were to shut down.

But out of the public eye, there would be major problems, DHS officials warned...

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Gay Rights Group Will Participate In Conservative Conference.... On Russia Panel

(9) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 3:25 PM

WASHINGTON -- An annual standoff between a Republican gay rights advocacy group and the organizers of a top conservative gathering reached a curious détente on Monday.

After complaining about their exclusion from the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Log Cabin Republicans are now set to participate in a...

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Elizabeth Warren's Loved By Progressives. But They're Torn On Convincing Her To Run For President.

(572) Comments | Posted February 23, 2015 | 7:33 AM

WASHINGTON -- Four years ago, eyeing a defeat of Scott Brown, the liberal activist group Progressive Change Campaign Committee loudly encouraged Elizabeth Warren to return to Massachusetts and make a run for the Senate. The group raised $100,000 to draft the consumer advocate, which it gave to her the week...

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Russ Feingold Is Leaving The State Department. Is A Senate Run Next?

(42) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 6:49 PM

WASHINGTON -- Russ Feingold will soon deliver his final speech as United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, closing one chapter of his career and inevitably sparking speculation about the next.

Many have speculated the former Democratic senator will run for his old seat...

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