Week ahead: Parties battle for ObamaCare advantage

Lawmakers face a fluid political narrative on ObamaCare as they return from their spring recess this week.

Democrats are hopeful that the political tide might be turning thanks to a run of positive news about the healthcare law.

While Congress was out of town, the White House said 8 million people had signed up for plans on the insurance exchanges.

The announcement came after the Congressional Budget Office lowered its cost projections for the healthcare law and before survey data suggested that 12 million previously uninsured people gained healthcare coverage since last fall, an increase over previous estimates.

A New York Times poll released last week found better-than-expected news for several red-state Senate Democrats who are up for reelection.

Those developments do not guarantee success for the healthcare law, and Republicans still believe it will be a liability for Democrats as they seek to maintain control of the Senate.

Insurers are considering a variety of rate hikes on the exchanges for 2015, and more plan cancellations could be in the wings.

But with the White House riding high, the political calculus has shifted slightly for ObamaCare's Republican critics.

The House and Senate will hold a spate of healthcare events this week, but few will pertain to healthcare reform.  One exception is the House's plan to hold a second vote on a bill to exempt expatriates' insurance plans from ObamaCare.

The measure failed to pass under suspension of the rules on April 9, but easy approval is expected under regular order.

The Obama administration this week could also release its final report on enrollments through ObamaCare for 2014.

On Monday, the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee will look at rising abuse of prescription drugs and heroin.

Officials with several agencies, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, have been invited to testify.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights will examine how law enforcement responds to disabled people.

The next day, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will look at the problem of overmedication among military veterans. Also on Wednesday, the House Ways and Means health subcommittee will hear about policies to address waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.

Representatives from the Government Accountability Office and the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services are scheduled to testify.

Finally, on Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee will look at how telemedicine can benefit patients.

The announcement noted that committee members have collaborated on several bipartisan telehealth bills. Those measure are likely to come up in discussion.