First Thoughts: Some Good News for Obamacare

Students at Central New Mexico Community College apply for taxpayer-subsidized health plans under President Barack Obama's health care law during a special enrollment event in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)AP

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Report contains good news for Obamacare supporters

Live by the Congressional Budget Office, die by the Congressional Budget Office. Back in February, Republicans attacked Democrats over a CBO report showing that the health-care law was reducing labor supply by about 2 million workers in 2017. “Obamacare to print even more pink slips,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said (even though the report was talking about workers’ desire to remain in the workforce, not about whether employers think the law is too costly to hire people). But a new CBO report released Monday now has Democrats celebrating and Republicans relatively silent. According to the budget office, the health-care law is estimated to cost $5 billion less than the previous projection for 2014, and $104 billion less than the projection for 2015-2024. Perhaps more importantly, the report says that health-care premiums are lower than originally expected -- the average cost of a “silver” plan is estimated to be about $3,800 in 2014, down from previous estimates. All this isn’t to say that the law is in hunky-dory shape: We don’t know what the premiums will be for 2015, and we don’t know the demographic mix of the millions of Americans who have signed up in the exchanges. But what this CBO report does is paint a MUCH MORE nuanced portrait of the health-care law than opponents would believe. Bottom line: Obamacare has now enjoyed maybe its best two weeks of news (CBO report, 7.5 million sign-ups) since the law’s passage in 2010.

Still tense in Ukraine

Meanwhile, the situation in Ukraine remains tense. The Wall Street Journal: "A Ukrainian military operation to wrest control of cities in the east from pro-Russian militants has begun, Ukraine's acting president said Tuesday, as Russia's foreign minister warned use of force could derail international talks on the crisis." Reuters adds, "Russia declared Ukraine on the brink of civil war on Tuesday as Kiev said an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against pro-Moscow separatists was underway, though the crackdown got off to a slow start, if at all." This all comes after President Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Monday. "The call was at the Russians' request. It was frank and direct,” per the White House’s readout of the call. “The president made clear that the diplomatic path was open and our preferred way ahead, but that Russia's actions are neither consistent with or conducive to that.”

The tax man cometh -- and so do the political attacks

If it’s April 15, it not only means millions of Americans are scrambling to finish their tax returns -- it also means that politicians and political groups are trying to score points on Tax Day. Here’s a sampling: The New Hampshire GOP is out with a video arguing that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has voted to raise taxes. On the other side of the aisle, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is hosting a conference call at 10:00 am ET with liberal members of Congress and congressional candidates calling for a “millionaire’s tax” to invest in education and jobs.

One-year anniversary of the Boston bombing

Today also is the one-year anniversary of the deadly 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon. Vice President Biden and his wife head to Boston to attend a noon ET tribute to the victims of the attack. And at 2:40 pm ET, President Obama and his senior advisers meet at the White House to observe a moment of silence to mark the anniversary. Also on Obama’s schedule: At 11:30 am ET, he discusses immigration reform with faith leaders. And at 6:30 pm ET, he hosts a Passover seder at the White House.

Landrieu’s newest TV ad

Finally, Politico reports on Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) new one-minute TV ad that casts her fighting for Louisiana and standing up to the Obama administration (when it comes to oil and energy). “For years, she’s forced Washington to respect Louisiana,” a narrator says in the ad. “The administration’s policies are simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production in this nation,” Landrieu is shown saying. More from the narrator: “Now as the new chairman of the Energy committee … she holds the most powerful position in the Senate for Louisiana.” Note: This is NOT her first TV ad; she ran this health-care spot late last year.

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