AP Only Tells Readers That 'Several' Obamacare Co-ops Are 'Hurting'

November 21st, 2015 12:38 AM

The press's reluctance to relay Obamacare-related bad news has been obvious for years. Nowhere is this more consistently the case than at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press.

Over half of the state non-profit co-ops set up under Obamacare with $2 billion-plus in taxayer funding are failing. The AP has generally treated those failures as local stories, even though they relate to the Affordable Care Act, the passage of which they still call President Barack Obama's "signature domestic achievement." Most of the other co-ops are either incurring huge losses, have become undercapitalized, or both. So watch, in context, how AP business writer Tom Murphy, in a dispatch primarily about UnitedHealth Group's announcement that "it is pulling back from its push into the Affordable Care Act's public insurance exchanges":

WHY IS IT (i.e., UnitedHealth Group) STRUGGLING?

The insurer has been hurt in particular by customers who signed up for coverage outside the open enrollment window and use more health care in general than those who bought coverage during open enrollment.

Insurers expected challenges as they built this business over the past few years. They have been struggling, in particular, to attract enough healthy customers to their coverage to balance sicker patients who use a lot of health care.


Several smaller, nonprofit insurance cooperatives said recently that they would stop selling coverage on the state-based exchanges.

Aetna Inc. said last month that its exchange enrollment fell 11 percent in the third quarter, but company leaders also said the exchanges remain a good market.

Obvious problems:

  • Though readers could infer that the co-ops are involved with Obamacare, Murphy didn't identify them as entities specifically created in the legislation to try to "prove" that non-profit, government-financed entities could show the big, ugly profiteering insurance companies how to run a business efficiently and effectively. (Cue the laugh track.)
  • The question Murphy asked was: "Who else is hurting?" It wasn't: "Who has stopped selling coverage?"
  • But Murphy wouldn't even answer his own question, only telling readers that "several" — normally defined as between 2 and 5 — co-ops have stopped selling coverage "recently."


    The fact of the matter is that, as seen at the following graphic originally found at the Washington Post, 12 co-ops are or will shortly be closing their doors:OcareCoopsAsOf1115

    Also, as seen above, at least five others are in some degree of trouble. Perhaps as many as six haven't crossed into the troubled category, but most of their performances have hardly been impressive. A few, particularly Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oregon, look like they should be classified as troubled.

Deceptions such as these are the exception rather than the rule in the press's coverage of Obamacare developments.

It seems inevitable that some reporter will look at the wreckage of the co-ops and utter that infamous punch line in the joke about surgeons: "The operation was a success, but the patient died."

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.