‘‘The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance,’’ he said in a part of his opinion that the liberal justices did not join. But his crucial bottom line was: ‘‘The federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.’’
In all, the justices spelled out their views in six opinions totaling 187 pages. Roberts, Kennedy and Ginsburg spent 51 minutes summarizing their views in the courtroom.
The legislation passed Congress in early 2010 after a monumental struggle in which all Republicans voted against it. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Thursday the House will vote July 11 on whether to repeal the law, though such efforts have virtually no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the health care law makes it harder for small businesses to hire workers. ‘‘Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,’’ he said.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., heaped praise on the court’s decision, and the 2010 law, in a Senate speech. ‘‘Passing the Affordable Care Act was the greatest single step in generations toward ensuring access to affordable, quality health care for every American, regardless of where they live or how much money they make,’’ he said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi cast the decision as vindication for her work to secure passage of the far-reaching legislation.
‘‘This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry,’’ Pelosi said.
After the ruling, Republican campaign strategists said Romney will use it to continue campaigning against ‘‘Obamacare’’ — the name the GOP gave the plan In derision, though many Democrats now accept it — and in attacking the president’s signature health care program as a tax increase.
‘‘Obama might have his law, but the GOP has a cause,’’ said veteran campaign adviser Terry Holt. ‘‘This promises to galvanize Republican support around a repeal of what could well be called the largest tax increase in American history.’’
Democrats said Romney, who backed an individual health insurance mandate when he was Massachusetts governor, will have a hard time exploiting the ruling.
‘‘Mitt Romney is the intellectual godfather of Obamacare,’’ said Democratic consultant Jim Manley. ‘‘The bigger issue is the rising cost of health care, and this bill is designed to deal with it.’’
Ginsburg, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, said in her opinion that ‘‘Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead.’’
More than eight in 10 Americans already have health insurance. But for most of the 50 million who are uninsured, the ruling offers the promise of guaranteed coverage at affordable prices. Lower-income and many middle-class families will be eligible for subsidies to help pay premiums starting in 2014.
There’s also an added safety net for all Americans, insured and uninsured. Starting in 2014, insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage for medical treatment, nor can they charge more to people with health problems. Those protections, now standard in most big employer plans, will be available to all, including people who get laid off, or leave a corporate job to launch their own small business.
Seniors also benefit from the law through better Medicare coverage for those with high prescription costs, and no copayments for preventive care. But hospitals, nursing homes, and many other service providers may struggle once the Medicare cuts used to finance the law really start to bite.
Illegal immigrants are not entitled to the new insurance coverage under the law, and will remain one of the biggest groups uninsured.
Obama’s law is by no means the last word on health care. Experts expect costs to keep rising, meaning that lawmakers will have to revisit the issue perhaps as early as next year, when federal budget woes will force them to confront painful options for Medicare and Medicaid, the giant federal programs that cover seniors, the disabled, and low-income people.
The health care overhaul focus will now quickly shift from Washington to state capitals. Only 14 states, plus Washington, D.C., have adopted plans to set up the new health insurance markets called for under the law. Called exchanges, the new markets are supposed to be up and running on Jan. 1, 2014. People buying coverage individually, as well as small businesses, will be able to shop for private coverage from a range of competing insurers.Continued...