Administration announces new Obamacare rules as media admits the program is in trouble

The Obama administration has issued new rules which seem aimed at stemming the tide of insurers backing away from the Obamacare exchanges. From the Hill:

The rule proposed on Monday would make some changes that have been sought by insurers to an ObamaCare program called risk adjustment, which redistributes money from insurers with healthier enrollees to those with sicker, costlier ones.

The rule proposes to make the formula more accurate by using prescription drug data as a source of information about enrollees’ health.

The proposal also includes new protections for insurers with extremely high-cost enrollees. Costs above $2 million for any one individual would be shared among insurers.

You can read a description of the proposed rule changes at this CMS blog. Some of the changes being proposed would not take effect until 2018.

All of this comes on a day when the media seems to have belatedly acknowledged that Obamacare is in trouble. The NY times published a piece today titled, “Obamacare Marketplaces Are in Trouble. What Can Be Done?” The piece isn’t a story so much as a list of problems which read like a conservative warning about what could go wrong, e.g. “choice is disappearing,” “prices are rising,” “the market is too small.”

CNN has a piece today titled, “Drawing more uninsured into Obamacare is critical to its survival.” That sounds pretty dire actually. It’s amazing that Obamacare’s survival is now in doubt when the entire media agreed there was nothing to worry a couple weeks ago. From CNN:

“In order to encourage insurers to come back, strong enrollment is critical, especially in this enrollment cycle,” said Cynthia Cox, associate director, health reform and private insurance, at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But if enrollment growth is weak, more insurers may bail, she said.

My favorite entry in the media song cycle of Obamacare’s decline is a Yahoo News piece titled simply, “Obamacare is in trouble.” Here’s the opening paragraph:

Critics of Obamacare, President’s Obama’s signature health-reform law, have sounded all kinds of exaggerated alarms over damage the program might cause. But one worrisome prediction may be coming true, in some places: the descent into an economic spiral that could render the program unviable.

I get what the author is trying to say here. There have been some predictions, e.g. employers dumping people on the exchange, that have not turned out to be true. But I still got a chuckle out of this. You could paraphrase it: Critics of Obamacare have been wrong about a bunch of stuff…except maybe the whole death spiral thing.

Even Vox’s Sarah Kliff wrote a piece today which closes:

Twenty million more people have health insurance because of Obamacare. If you’re someone who cares about expanding coverage, this is a big win.

But it’s still true that the law is a far cry from what health wonks envisioned just a few years ago when they saw the health care marketplaces reshaping the industry. And if your key priority with Obamacare was building a more consumer-centric insurance marketplace, then the law is quite clearly falling short — and possibly on the path to failure.

Obamacare really is in trouble and it’s pretty significant to see its supporters in the media finally acknowledge that after years of denial and happy-talk. That said, Obamacare was always just a starter house. If the roof collapses the lesson progressives take from it won’t be that they are bad builders spending money we really don’t have. As always, the lesson will be that they just weren’t ambitious enough.