King v. Burwell: SCOTUS decision could change everything--or nothing

Across the web, experts and pundits debate meaning of the case, possible outcomes of ruling

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case of King v. Burwell, which challenges the legality of federal insurance subsidies. At issue is whether Congress intended to allow subsidies for consumers shopping on the federal health insurance exchange in addition to state-run marketplaces.

Around the Web, reaction to the news was mixed, with arguments ranging from "this could change everything" to "this is not big deal."

On the "change everything" end of the spectrum, many news outlets and pundits are already mourning the loss of healthcare reform. A New Republic headline proclaims: "The Supreme Court is now a death panel."

It cites as an example those who used their new coverage to finance life-saving treatments that would leave them in need of chronic care for the rest of their lives. "Take away the health law, and most of these organ transplant recipients and other patients would have become unable to afford their medications, and some of them would die."

Los Angeles Times analysis raises concerns that striking down subsidies would widen the gap between health insurance haves and have-nots. "If the Supreme Court rules against federal subsidies in the 36 non-exchange states and those states don't respond, the second class will fall further behind the rest of the country," writes Michael Hiltzik.

Other news outlets attempted to soothe pro-reformers' fears.

Over at Slate, for example, the clever headline "Obamacare is doomed! Everybody panic!" was followed up with the more reassuring subhead: "Not so fast, progressives. It's far from a sure thing that the Supreme Court will destroy the Affordable Care Act." The article argues that if the court strikes down subsidies, it will push more states into the "Obamacare fold."

"There's going to be a lot of pushback to yanking the subsidies out of the hands of the 4.6 million people that are already getting them," the article notes. "There is a difference between denying a benefit you never experienced and taking away a benefit that made your life immeasurably better for a brief period of time. If the court sides with the challengers, it is going to put pressure on the states that opted out of creating an exchange for ideological reasons to do something to ensure that those who can't afford it can get insurance."

Similarly, another New Republic article offers up eight reasons to "stop freaking out about the Supreme Court's next Obamacare case."