WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court on Thursday, June 28, upheld Barack Obama's healthcare reform, giving the Democrat president a boost ahead of this year's election and dealing a stinging setback for Republican opponents.
"The highest court in the land has now spoken, Obama said at the White House following the court ruling, Reuters reported.
We will continue to implement this law and we'll work together to improve on it where we can.
"What we won't do - what the country can't afford to do - is re-fight the political battles of two years ago or go back to the way things were. With today's announcement, it's time for us to move forward."
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Obama's healthcare reform that aims to expand insurance coverage to 32 million Americans.
The law's "requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his ruling.
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.
The healthcare law, known formally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is the biggest overhaul of the $2.6 trillion healthcare system since the 1960s.
It is designed to bring health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans and to slow down soaring medical costs.
Under the law signed by Obama in 2010, most Americans must obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax.
Opponents had argued the mandate was an overreach by the federal government into the private lives of citizens. The law was opposed by 26 states, which challenged it in the court.
Thursday's ruling largely vindicates a sweeping attempt to fix a system that, while representing nearly 18 percent of the economy, leaves 16 percent of Americans uninsured, a failure that sets the United States apart in the industrialized world.
The US system, unlike other rich countries, is a patchwork of private insurance and restrictive government programs.
The United States pays more for healthcare than any other country but tens of millions of people remain with no insurance at all.
The court ruling drew fire from Republicans, who called for voting down Obama in the November election to overturn the law.
"This is a time of choice for the American people, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said following the ruling.
If we're going get rid of 'Obamacare' we're going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.
Romney had called for scrapping the law and replacing it with other measures even though he championed a similar approach at the state level as Massachusetts governor.
About 56 percent of Americans said they opposed the law in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.
When asked about its individual provisions, however, most respondents said they strongly supported them, except for the individual mandate, which was opposed by 61 percent of those surveyed.
Most respondents in the survey favored banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions; letting children stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26; and making companies with more than 50 workers offer insurance to their employees. All are parts of the law.
So are the creation of state-based exchanges to offer health insurance; insurance premium assistance to poor people; and insurance tax credits for those just above the poverty line.
US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, immediately following the court decision, renewed his vow to try to repeal the healthcare law.
"Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety," Boehner said in a statement.
His Republican-led House may vote to repeal the law, but Obama's fellow Democrats in the Senate likely would block that.
Democrats hailed the court ruling as vindication for a longtime healthcare reform champion, the late Senator Ted Kennedy.House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she called his widow Vicki Kennedy to say: "Now, Teddy can rest."