High court upholds key part of Obama health law

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court on
Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of
President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul.

The decision means the huge
overhaul, still only partly in effect, will proceed and pick up
momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless
Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling
also hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that
Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health
insurance or pay a penalty.

Chief Justice John Roberts
announced the court's judgment that allows the law to go forward with
its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The justices rejected two
of the administration's three arguments in support of the insurance
requirement. But the court said the mandate can be construed as a tax.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to
forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts said.

The court found problems
with the law's expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion
could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to
withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in
the law's extension.

The court's four liberal
justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia
Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome.

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“The act before us here
exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance
and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding,” the
dissenters said in a joint statement.

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