Supporters of President Obama's healthcare law demonstrate in front… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare law Thursday, ruling the government may impose tax penalties on persons who do not have health insurance.
The court’s long-awaited ruling rejected a broad legal attack on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought by Republican state officials and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The legal challenge focused on the law’s so-called mandate that all must have insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.
The administration defended this requirement under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. The challengers insisted the mandate was unprecedented and unconstitutional because the federal government would be forcing Americans to buy a private product.
The ruling was not a total victory for the Obama administration.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who wrote the opinion for a 5-4 majority, said the required expansion of Medicaid violates states’ rights and may be unconstitutional.
“The states are given no choice in this case. They must either accept a basic change in the nature of Medicaid or risk losing all Medicaid funding,” he wrote.
He said the federal government cannot require the states to follow this part of the law.
Roberts' opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered a dissent for Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas andSamuel A. Alito Jr.
[Updated at 7:37 a.m. PST, June 28: This post has been updated to reflect new information from the court's ruling.]