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The Supreme Court's hugely important new Obamacare case, explained in 3 sentences

The legal briefs filed in King v. Burwell, the case that could dismantle Obamacare's insurance expansion, run thousands of pages. If you're looking for a more pocket-sized version, here's the case that the justices will hear, in just three sentences.

  1. One section of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) says that the federal government can give enrollees financial help if they buy coverage through a marketplace "established by the state."
  2. The King challengers argue that the above language precludes the federal government from distributing subsidies in the 36 states that use a federally run marketplace — and that the IRS has, since the start of 2014, illegally given out billions of dollars in tax credits.
  3. The government argues that the subsidies are legal because of another part of the law which says that the federal government should go into states that don't build their own marketplaces and create "such Exchange[s]" [in those places.

Other issues could come up, too, in the Supreme Court decision, which is expected by the end of this month. There might be discussion about what Congress intended with the subsidies and how much regulators can (or should) divine from the language that legislators passed. But at its very core, the King v. Burwell case is all about this small bit of language in the health-care law — and whether it gives the Obama administration the authority distribute billions in tax credits that it currently claims to have.