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Supreme Court to take up Obamacare subsidies case

The Supreme Court on Friday announced that it will take up this term a case challenging the way federal subsidies are doled out through Obamacare. Should the high court rule in favor of the law's opponents, it could cripple the controversial, four-year-old health law.

The casequestions whether the federal government can give subsidies to Obamacare recipients in states with federally-run health care exchanges. Currently, more than half the states in the nation rely on the federally-run Obamacare marketplace. Should the court rule that consumers in those states are no longer eligible for subsidies, it could make the marketplace too expensive for many of them.

The case, rests on how the court system interprets one key sentence in the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1311 of the law says the federal government will give subsidies to eligible consumers who buy insurance from an exchange "established by the State." The suit interprets that line to mean that subsidies are not available to customers in the dozens of Obamacare exchanges that were established by the federal government.

In a statement Friday, the White House dismissed the lawsuit as "just another partisan attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act."

"We will continue to ensure that every American has the peace of mind of having access to affordable insurance," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "We are confident that the Supreme Court will recognize both the clear reading of the entire law, and the certain intent of Congress in crafting it."

In July, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the law's opponents, but a Virginia-based appeals court on the same day struck down a similar challenge. In October, the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to throw out its earlier ruling and re-hear the case in December. That case is now less relevant since the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in.

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