The Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s health care law in an election-year triumph for him and fellow Democrats who championed the most sweeping overhaul since the 1960s of the unwieldy U.S. health care system.
In a 5-4 ruling based on the power of Congress to impose taxes, the nation’s highest court preserved the law’s “individual mandate” requiring that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax. The justices also preserved, with some changes, a provision of the law expanding the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.
The decision — written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four liberals — was a setback for Republicans who mounted unified opposition in Congress to the law before its 2010 passage and who deride it as meddling in the lives of individuals and in the business of the states.
Opponents said the individual mandate was an overreach by the federal government. The court was divided on the issue Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger in the presidential election, immediately responded, with the president calling the ruling “a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.”
Romney, who pushed through a similar health care overhaul at the state level in 2006 as governor of Massachusetts but opposed Obama’s law, called on voters to help him defeat the president in order to repeal the law critics derisively call Obamacare.