WASHINGTON (AP) UPDATE - President Barack Obama says the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his health care overhaul is a "victory for people all over the country" and will make their lives more secure.
Obama says the decision upholds the fundamental principle that in America -- the wealthiest nation on earth -- no one should fall into financial ruin because of an illness.
The president says the decision means that people with pre-existing medical conditions will not be discriminated against and people will be able to afford quality health care.
The nation's highest court on Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the center of the president's overhaul.
Polling has suggested that most Americans oppose the law and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed again after the ruling to seek its repeal.
WASHINGTON (AP) - UPDATE - Republican Mitt Romney is promising that he will repeal the federal health care law the Supreme Court just upheld.
He called the decision incorrect and said Thursday that it is "bad law." He says it raises taxes and cuts Medicare.
Romney says that, if elected in November, he will work to repeal and replace the law. But he hasn't said precisely how.
As Massachusetts governor, Romney signed into law a measure that required all state residents to have health coverage. That notion was the cornerstone of the law enacted by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. The high court decided it was constitutional.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - UPDATE - The Supreme Court upheld President Obama's health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that gives Obama a major election-year victory.
Basically, a bare majority of the justices said that the individual mandate -- the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine -- is constitutional as a tax.
Chief Justice John Roberts -- a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush -- provided a key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama's re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
Obama is expected to comment on the decision within the next two hours.
The government had argued that Congress had the authority to pass the individual mandate as part of its power to regulate interstate commerce; the court disagreed with that analysis, but preserved the mandate because the fine amounts to a tax that is within Congress' constitutional taxing powers.
The justices decided the tax question on a 5-4 vote, with four Republican appointees in dissent: Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.
Roberts, also a GOP appointee, joined four Democratic appointees in upholding the mandate: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Obama appointed justices Sotomayor and Kagan.
The announcement will have a major impact on the nation's health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.
As lawyers examined the details of the various opinions, political analysts quickly predicted at least a short-term political boost for Obama.
Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said "you can hear the sigh of relief at the White House" over a big plus for Obama.
"It allows the president's signature achievement to stand," Brown said. "Since politics is the ultimate zero-sum game, what's good for Obama is bad for Gov. Mitt Romney."
Brown also noted that the ruling allows the Republican "to continue campaigning against the law and promising to repeal it."
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, vowed to step up efforts to repeal what they call "Obamacare," should they win control of Congress in the November elections.
"The president's health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety."The law's individual mandate had been the key question for the court.
Critics called the requirement an unconstitutional overreach by Congress and the Obama administration; supporters say it is necessary to finance the health care plan.
While the individual mandate remains 18 months away from implementation, many other provisions of the health care law already have gone into effect, such as free wellness exams for seniors and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance policies.
Other impacts will sort themselves out over the next several years:
-- Health care millions of Americans will be affected - coverage for some, premiums for others. Doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, and employers large and small all will feel the impact.
-- States -- some of which have moved ahead with the health care overhaul while others have held back -- now have decisions to make. A deeply divided Congress could decide to re-enter the debate with legislation.
-- The presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is sure to feel the repercussions. Obama's health care law has proven to be slightly more unpopular than popular among Americans.
Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush's election in December 2000 -- before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Wall Street's dive and Obama's rise -- has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly every American.
Passed by Democrats along strictly partisan lines and still 18 months short of full implementation, the law is designed to extend health coverage to some 32 million uninsured people, ban insurers from discriminating against those with expensive ailments, and require nearly all Americans to buy insurance or pay penalties.
Its passage on March 23, 2010, marked the culmination of an effort by Democrats to overhaul the nation's health care system that dates back to Harry Truman's presidency. The most recent effort by President Bill Clinton in 1994 fell victim to Republican opposition. Since then, lesser changes have been enacted, including creation of a separate Children's Health Insurance Program in the states.
WASHINGTON (AP) UPDATE - The individual mandate survives.
The Supreme Court has upheld the heart of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul -- ruling in favor of the requirement that most Americans can be required to have health insurance, or else pay a penalty.
The decision means the historic overhaul will continue to take effect over the next several years, affecting the way countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.
The ruling also hands President Barack Obama a campaign-season victory.
The court found problems with the law's expansion of Medicaid. But even there, it said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold the entire Medicaid allotment to states if they don't take part in the extension.
The court's four liberal justices, Stephen Bryer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome.
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - Tea Party and union members, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats have two things in common as the Supreme Court prepares to announce its verdict on President Obama's health care law Thursday.
They have no clue what the court will decide. And they will have plenty to say outside the court immediately after - in high praise or denunciation.
Much like the court's three days of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act in late March, Thursday will feature a crowded, hushed courtroom and a cacophonous series of sidewalk demonstrations.
For some lawyers and lawmakers who have fought the health care battle for years - and in some cases, decades - it's an opportunity to witness history inside the marble courthouse.
"There's an atmosphere of intense, quiet excitement," says Neal Katyal, who represented the Obama administration before the court as acting solicitor general in 2010-11. "People are sitting in that room knowing history is about to be made."
Ron Pollack, executive director of the health consumer group Families USA, has been there the past three days the court delivered opinions, just in case health care was among them. Thursday, he plans to arrive several hours early to make sure he picks up every nuance from the nine justices.
Pollack's allies will be outside as well, to react before dozens of TV cameras. Within minutes, the group plans to send its analysis and recommendations for further action to more than 100,000 supporters. It has prepared eight news releases based on potential court rulings.
"It's going to be packed," Pollack predicts. "We're going to have a lot of people outside. They will have signs, and they will chant dignified but positive things about the legislation."
On the other side of the debate, Tea Party demonstrators also will be out in force. They plan a "flash rally" in front of the court, thanks to "Minutemen" coming from hours away.
Day 1 of arguments: Court skeptical tax law ends debate
Day 2 of arguments: Justices tackle insurance mandate
Day 3 of arguments: Court weighs health law's fate if no insurance mandate
Within 36 hours, the Tea Party Patriots plan a teleconference for their members with key opponents of the law, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Members of Congress will be inside and outside. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will dispatch two members of his leadership team, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Tom Price of Georgia. Boehner has vowed to seek repeal of any portions of the law left standing by the court.
Liberal Democrats, anticipating that the court's conservative majority may strike at least part of the law, plan to march from the Capitol to the court with signs urging "Medicare for all," a type of government-run health care. Among them will be Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
Some of the most prominent advocates involved with the case won't attend - they'll be busy reading and responding.
Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor and plaintiff in the case on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business, will be reading the justices' opinions, writing on legal blog sites, doing radio commentary and fielding a steady stream of media calls.
"This has turned out to be the biggest case in our lifetime," Barnett says. "This is really a case that's up there at the level of Brown v. Board of Education," the 1954 desegregation case.