The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the core of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, giving him an election-year triumph and preserving a law that would expand insurance to millions of people and transform an industry that makes up 18 percent of the nation’s economy.
The justices, voting 5-4, said Congress has the power to make Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty. That requirement is at the center of the law, which also forces insurers to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. The court modified the law’s extension of the Medicaid program for the poor by saying the federal government can’t threaten to withhold existing money from states that don’t fully comply.
Among the majority, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor voted to uphold the entire statute. Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed with Roberts in limiting the Medicaid expansion.
Obama’s health-care legislation “puts the federal government between you and your doctor,” Romney told reporters in Washington. Though he pushed through a similar plan when he was governor of Massachusetts, he has said such a measure isn’t applicable nationally.
The Medicaid expansion was designed to extend eligibility to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. States that didn’t comply with the new expansion would have lost all or part of their share of federal Medicaid funding.
The health-care measure’s enactment in March 2010 marked the culmination of decades of efforts by Democrats and Republicans alike to put in place a universal health-care program. For Obama, congressional approval marked a victory that had eluded presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton.