OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Is the tide turning for ObamaCare?

Congress returned to Washington on Monday amid shifting political winds for the healthcare reform law. While lawmakers were out of town, ObamaCare won a streak of good media coverage for its total exchange enrollments, its current cost projections and the estimated number of uninsured people who have gained coverage since last fall.

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Statements by Republican leaders also pointed to a changing political calculus for the GOP. While criticizing ObamaCare last week, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) acknowledged that the law's basic framework was likely to survive. "We need to look at reforming the exchanges," she said on Thursday.

Democrats jumped on these developments as evidence that their narrative is winning. White House officials and liberal activists circulated more positive news for the law on Monday, including a Democratic survey that found ObamaCare's numbers are improving in GOP congressional districts. Another widely touted Philadelphia Inquirer story recounted a man's change of heart about the law after he found an affordable plan and received life-saving surgery.

None of this guarantees the law's success, nor success for Democrats in November. Republicans still have plenty of ammunition against ObamaCare, from stories of rising prices to the canceled plans that many people attributed to the law’s new regulations. But perhaps for the first time since last fall, Democrats can claim they are on offense on healthcare.

Burwell hearing scheduled: President Obama's nominee to replace Kathleen Sebelius as head of the Department of Health and Human Services will face the first of her two confirmation hearings next week, according to a Senate staffer. Sylvia Mathews Burwell will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on May 8, a committee spokeswoman announced in an email. Burwell is also due before the Senate Finance Committee, though that hearing had not been scheduled as of Monday afternoon. Read the story here.

Foundations vs. insurers: The American Hospital Association (AHA) is asking the Obama administration to clearly state its support for charities subsidizing medical expenses for low-income people on ObamaCare's exchanges. In a letter Monday, the AHA and the Catholic Health Association urged the Department of Health and Human Services to confirm they do not discourage the subsidies by hospital-based foundations and other charitable groups.

The issue puts the administration in a tough position, caught between charities and health insurance companies. Foundations say they should be permitted to provide additional exchange subsidies as part of their charitable missions. Insurers argue the practice will destabilize the system by drawing in additional sick people. The rest of the story is here.

Miss. abortion clinic's fate in doubt: A federal appeals court heard arguments Monday over a Mississippi law that opponents say will shut down the state's only abortion clinic and impose a burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies. Members of a 5th Circuit panel reportedly raised the possibility that the law is unconstitutional because it will force women to travel to other states to obtain abortions. Supporters said the rules will protect women's health. Read about the arguments at The Associated Press.

Win for NARAL: Bowing to pressure from abortion-rights groups, Google is removing advertisements from its site for “crisis pregnancy centers” that discourage women from having abortions. NARAL Pro-Choice America had pushed for Google to take down the ads, arguing they violated the Web giant’s advertising policy.

“Anyone looking for abortion services should be able to depend on their search engine to provide them with accurate resources,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement. “Anything less is aiding and abetting ideologically driven groups with a calculated campaign to lie to and shame women making one of the most important decisions of our lives.”

Abortion-rights groups say that the crisis centers, which advertise free counseling, operate under innocuous names in order to convince women not to end their pregnancies. The Hill's tech policy team has the details.

Missing formularies: Nearly half of plans available through ObamaCare’s state and federal insurance exchanges didn’t list what drugs patients had access to or made that information difficult to find on their websites, according to a new survey.

The study, conducted by Avalere Health, analyzed consumer experience on Healthcare.gov in five states and another 12 state-run insurance exchanges. In 38 percent of cases, plans did not include a drug formulary, a list of covered medications. In another 11 percent of cases, the list of covered drugs was “difficult” or “very difficult” for consumers to find. Read more here.


Tuesday's schedule

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on the rising incidence of prescription drug and heroin abuse.

The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights will examine in a hearing how law enforcement responds to disabled people.

The American College of Sports Medicine will hold a congressional briefing to release its 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.


State by state

Missouri governor adds new wrinkle to Medicaid expansion plan

In Tennessee, time growing short for 100 percent Medicaid match

How California won the ObamaCare race


Reading list

NYT The Upshot: How Congress is actually holding down Medicare spending

FierceHealthcare: Why hospitals turn a blind eye to misbehaving docs

Reuters: WHO holds emergency meeting on cross-border spread of polio

Bloomberg: Pfizer still wants AstraZeneca after bid rejected


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Dems demand FDA work faster to approve anti-abuse painkiller

ObamaCare is flash point in Neb. Senate race

Dems don't want to talk O-Care

Week ahead: Parties battle for ObamaCare advantage