Beyond King v. Burwell: Payers brace for 'death spiral'

Affordable Care Act case leaves insurers with many questions, no answers

The oral arguments on King v. Burwell have come and gone, leaving the industry--and the rest of the country--to wonder what the Supreme Court will decide come June.

Much was discussed during the 84-minute argument, which FierceHealthPayer attended. We've rounded up key takeaways and industry reactions to sum up the session.

[Related Special Report: King v. Burwell Supreme Court ruling: What you need to know.]

Payers must move forward

Because the back-and-forth throughout the session gave no strong indicator on what the Court will decide, payers may have to play out different scenarios.

"It's really hard to predict what's going to happen," Anne Phelps, head of health regulatory practice at Deloitte, told FierceHealthPayer in a phone call after Wednesday's session. "When it comes to health plans in particular, there are a number of things to consider. If the Court strikes down subsidies, then there is the question of timing."

Phelps mentioned that, because the ruling is set for June, consumers will have been covered for six months of the year. This may incentivize consumers to continue coverage for the remainder of 2015, even if they lose out on tax credits. If this is the case, then payers are in an interesting position: They need to figure out a way to maintain members who want low-cost plans.