The Note's Must-Reads for Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Janine Elliot

HEALTHCARE The Los Angeles Times' Noam Levey: " Obamacare Enrollment Tops 5 Million Amid Surge In Sign-Ups" More than 5 million people have now signed up for health insurance on marketplaces created by President Obama's healthcare law, thanks to a surge in enrollment over the last two weeks, the Obama administration announced Monday. The quickening pace of sign-ups confirms that many Americans are using the new marketplaces as a March 31 deadline approaches for getting coverage this year. The latest figures indicate that roughly 1 million people enrolled during the last two weeks, surpassing the total for all of February. LINK

The Hill's Jonathan Easley: " ObamaCare Enrollment Hit 5 Million" ObamaCare enrollment spiked in March, and a total of 5 million people have signed up since the insurance marketplaces launched in October, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote in a blog post Monday. Less than a week ago, the administration said 4.2 million had signed up for coverage through the end of February, meaning that about 800,000 people have enrolled so far in March. That's good news for the Obama administration; the number of enrollments had fallen from 1.1 million in January to 942,000 in February. LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: " Too Little, Too Late? Obamacare Sign-Ups Rise As Deadline Looms" Five million people have now signed up for health plans through Obamacare's exchanges, the administration announced Monday, arguing they are seeing a last-minute surge of interest ahead of the March 31 deadline. Officials said more than 1 million people visited the federal website this weekend, and 4 million visited last week, producing hundreds of thousands of new enrollees. "As this historic open enrollment period enters its final weeks, millions of Americans are finding quality, affordable coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act," said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. LINK

USA Today's Kelly Kennedy: " More Than 5 Million Now Enrolled In Health Exchanges" More than 5 million people have signed up for health insurance through the federal and state exchanges, Department of Health and Human Services officials said Monday. That's 1 million shy of the 6 million people the government expects to have enrolled by March 31, the deadline for open enrollment for both insurance through the exchanges and through private insurers. They have 14 days to hit that goal. LINK

The Washington Post's Sandhya Somashekhar: " Obamacare Enrollment Hits 5 Million" The Obama administration announced Monday that more than 5 million people have signed up for new insurance plans under the health-care law, suggesting new momentum for the program as the deadline to get covered this year approaches. About 800,000 people selected health plans on the state and federal insurance marketplaces in the beginning of March, officials said in a blog post - almost as many as signed up during the entire month of February. The figure brings the administration closer to Congressional Budget Office projections that 6 million people would enroll by the end of March. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Corbett Dooren: " New Health Exchanges Reach 5 Million Enrollees" The Obama administration said Monday that five million people had signed up for private health insurance on exchanges as of the past weekend, signaling an uptick in enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. The roughly 800,000 people who enrolled between March 1 and March 16 compares with a total of 943,000 people who picked plans in February. The newest batch of enrollees come as the Obama administration has stepped up its effort to lure young consumers in advance of a March 31 deadline to get coverage this year. LINK

The Boston Globe's Liz Kowalczyk: " State Dismisses Health Site Firm" Massachusetts is dropping the contractor that created the state's dysfunctional online health insurance marketplace, ending a troubled partnership that has left thousands of consumers frustrated and many without coverage for months. The state notified CGI last week that it was being terminated, and officials have started negotiating a transition. The $68-million contract with the Montreal-based technology consulting company expires in September, and Sarah Iselin, who was hired last month by Governor Deval Patrick to oversee repairs to the Health Connector website, said that exactly when CGI finishes its work and how much the state pays for it are subject to bargaining. LINK

FOREIGN AFFAIRS ABC News' Mary Bruce: " Obama Urges Palestinian Leader To Accept Framework For Peace Talks" With a key deadline looming, President Obama today urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept guidelines for new Mideast peace talks. "Now is the time for not just the leaders of both sides but also the peoples of both sides to embrace this opportunity for peace," the president told reporters ahead of his Oval Office meeting with Abbas. Obama admitted that an agreement is an "elusive goal," saying "it's very hard. It's very challenging."We remain convinced that there is an opportunity," he said. "We're going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward. And my hope is that we can continue to see progress in the coming days and weeks." LINK

The New York Times' Alissa Rubin: " Deterioration In U.S.-Russian Relations May Disrupt Coming Talks With Iran" Tensions between the West and Russia over events in Ukraine have cast a shadow over the second round of talks set to begin on Tuesday in Vienna on a permanent nuclear agreement with Iran. Although the talks have no direct connection to Ukraine, their success hinges on solidarity among the so-called P5-plus-one countries - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include Russia, plus Germany - in favor of a tough agreement with Iran to drastically scale back its nuclear program. LINK

FLOTUS ABC News' Ann Compton: " Michelle Obama Headed To China" White House advisers on Monday described First Lady Michelle Obama's upcoming official trip to China as focused on cultural exchanges and the value of education, not on human rights and divisive issues they say are discussed when her husband speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. "The nature of her visit is really quite different," said Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security advisor for Strategic Communications, on a conference call with reporters. "What the First Lady really brings is the power of her own story, the power of American values." The first lady will tell of her own modest upbringing when she visits schools in Beijing and Chengdu, with a side trip to see the legendary terracotta warriors in the interior city of Xi'an. Teen daughter Malia Obama and her younger sister Sasha will be along during their spring break, as well as their grandmother Marian Robinson. LINK

USA Today's David Jackson: " M. Obama Visits China For 'People-to-People' Diplomacy" First lady Michelle Obama heads to China this week, and hopes to avoid any talk about American-Chinese political differences. "The overall message of this trip will be on people-to-people exchange," said Tina Tchen, the first lady's chief of staff, with an emphasis on "cultural exchanges" and education. Mrs. Obama will meet with her Chinese counterpart Peng Liyuan, the wife of President Xi Jinping, but the two first ladies will visit a school. The U.S. first lady will also address American and Chinese students at Peking University, and visit a high school in Chengdu. LINK

UKRAINE Wall Street Journal's Carol E. Lee, Jay Solomon and Gregory L. White: " Russia Moves Closer To Absorbing Crimea, Despite Sanctions" Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off an initial round of Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and defied warnings of stiffer punishment to come by taking another step toward annexing Crimea. The Obama administration Monday enacted what it called the most comprehensive sanctions to hit Russia since the end of the Cold War. It targeted 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials, including some of Mr. Putin's top advisers and the ousted former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, a close Kremlin ally. LINK

REP CHARLES RANGEL AND MAYOR DE BLASIO Politico's John Bresnahan and Maggie Haberman: " Charles Rangel And Bill de Blasio: Political Silence" As he takes on the final campaign of his career, veteran New York Rep. Charles Rangel should be untouchable. After all, the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, ran Rangel's reelection campaign in 1994. And given that Rangel is a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, it might make sense that he'd be close to the country's first African-American president. But these days, Rangel can't even get de Blasio on the phone - let alone meet with him. And the mayor so far has remained publicly neutral in the 22-term incumbent's reelection race. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " White House: Crimea Referendum 'Violates International Law'" LINK " President Obama Expands Sanctions Against Russia" LINK

BOOKMARKS The Note: LINK ABC News Politics: LINK George Stephanopoulos' Blog: LINK ABC News on Twitter: @ThisWeekABC | @ABCPolitics ABC News Mobile: LINK ABC News Apps: LINK ABC News YouTube: LINK

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