Industry upheaval has insurance execs on edge

Health insurance executives have had a rough few months.

First, there was the drama with the Supreme Court's King v. Burwell case, which threatened to eliminate federal subsidies for consumers in states that chose to not establish their own exchange.

Then, the industry moved to consolidate. Aetna announced its $37 billion deal to acquire Humana early July, and just two weeks later, Anthem said it planned it Cigna in a $54.2 billion deal.

But these deals won't be finalized easily, as there has been major pushback from politicians and industry experts, some of whom have raised concerns that the pending mergers will diminish competition in dozens of states.

Finally, there's the ongoing saga of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Carnegie Mellon economist George Loewenstein, who has spent a lot of time with insurance execs recently, tells the publication Marketplace that "they seem stressed out. Like, severely stressed out."

The uncertainty about the ACA, however, may be a blessing in disguise. "The insurance companies need to be spending time figuring out whether the law is going to be there, rather than just figuring out how it ought to be applied," Jill Horwitz from the University of California-Los Angeles, tells the publication.

More challenging than concerns about what the courts will decide, however, has been the questions surrounding how sick or how healthy insurers' exchanges customers would be, another expert points out. In fact, facing an influx of new enrollees with chronic conditions has led insurers like Highmark to offer more narrow-network exchange plans.

For now, though, insurers need to adopt the mindset that the ACA is here to stay, according to the article, and work with the hand they've been dealt.

For more:
- here's the Marketplace piece