President Barack Obama Thursday morning said that the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay." Obama spoke in the White House Rose Garden in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold federal subsidies in the King v. Burwell case.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government, 6-3.
Obama remarked that healthcare is not a privilege but a right, and that the ACA set the country on a smarter course.
Obama drew comparisons to the passage of Social Security and Medicare.
“Slowly, it was woven into fabric in America, made a difference in the lives of American people. It helped millions of people. This generation of Americans chose to finish the job. We chose to write a new chapter. If we get sick, we'll be able to still look after our families. Take care of each other, root for others' success. This was a good day for America. Let's get back to work.”
The ruling preserves health insurance for millions of Americans. Obama said more than 16 million have gained coverage under the law so far, and 1 in 3 who weren't insured three years ago are now. He said the uninsured rate is now the lowest since the country began keeping records.
In the 6-3 ruling Thursday, the justices said the subsidies that 8.7 million people currently receive to make insurance affordable do not depend on where they live, under the 2010 healthcare law.
The outcome is the second major victory for Obama in politically charged Supreme Court tests of his most significant domestic achievement.
Chief Justice John Roberts again voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was a dissenter in 2012, but was part of the majority on Thursday.
Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them."
Nationally, 10.2 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Obama health overhaul.
That includes the 8.7 million people who are receiving an average subsidy of $272 a month to help pay their insurance premiums.
Of those receiving subsidies, 6.4 million were at risk of losing that aid because they live in states that did not set up their own health insurance exchanges.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion was particularly colorful. He came up with a new name for what's become known as Obamacare: "SCOTUScare," using the the acronym for the Supreme Court.
He said his colleagues have twice stepped in to save the law from what Scalia considered worthy challenges.
Senate Democrats have a simple message: It's over.
Speaking on the Senate floor minutes after Thursday's ruling was announced, Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "Enough's enough. Let's move on."
The Nevada Democrat was one of the party leaders who worked to ensure passage of the law in 2010. He said Republicans should stop wasting time with votes to repeal the law, which now exceed 50.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said in a statement, "Memo to the nonstop critics of the Affordable Care Act: Stop trying to kill this program and work to make it stronger."
Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted that the court "affirms what we know is true in our hearts & under the law: Health insurance should be affordable & available to all."
Clinton later posted an old photograph of her hugging Obama, calling it a "great day." The Twitter link directs supporters to Clinton's campaign website and encourages them to provide their e-mail address and ZIP code to "Stand with Hillary for health care."
Clinton has said fixes should be made to the law where necessary, but it's succeeding in expanding healthcare coverage to millions more people.
The Republican candidates for president have started to weigh in.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned the ruling into a selling point for his potential turn in the White House. He said Thursday it's not up to the Supreme Court to knock down a law deeply unpopular among many in the GOP. "We need leadership that understands a heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all policy does nothing to help health outcomes for Americans," Perry said.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called the ruling "judicial tyranny."
"The Supreme Court cannot legislate from the bench, ignore the Constitution and pass a multitrillion-dollar 'fix' to Obamacare simply because Congress misread what states would actually do," Huckabee said.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was instrumental in getting the ACA passed in 2010, cheered the Supreme Court's decision.
In a statement, she said, "Today, for the second time, the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act. This is a victory for common sense and for all American families. It is long past time for Republicans to abandon their assault on the newfound health security that the Affordable Care Act is providing millions and millions of Americans across the country."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling means Republicans in Congress must "redouble their efforts to repeal and replace" the law.
Walker issued a statement Thursday through the committee he set up to explore a presidential bid. Walker is a longtime opponent of the law and has frequently called for it to be repealed. Walker said the law has been a failure and "we need real leadership in Washington and Congress needs to repeal and replace" it.
Wisconsin Democrats and advocates for the poor are praising the court's ruling, as it means 183,000 state residents who purchase insurance through the federal marketplace won't lose subsidies. The average subsidy in Wisconsin is about $315 a month, with more than 90% receiving some subsidies.
Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, said Thursday's decision is a "tremendous victory for all of us." She said without the subsidies, thousands of women would no longer be able to afford to purchase health insurance.
Jon Peacock with Wisconsin Children and Families called the decision a "huge relief."
"It means there will be no changes for Wisconsin residents who purchase insurance through the federal exchange," he said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson called the ruling "incredibly disappointing." He said the ruling "cements a system costing millions of Americans the health plans they chose and liked and access to doctors they knew and trusted."
Johnson called the law unaffordable and destructive. He is running for re-election next year against Democrat Russ Feingold. Feingold's campaign had no immediate comment.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said now that health insurance tax credits are intact for Michigan residents, his administration will focus on ensuring 600,000 people keep receiving expanded Medicaid coverage.
The Republican said Thursday he appreciates the "deep uncertainty of this issue" being resolved.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling leaves Snyder with one less obstacle while seeking a waiver needed from the Obama administration to keep Michigan's Medicaid expansion beyond 2016.
State law requires that enrollees in the program for four years have the option to buy insurance in a federal exchange. The waiver process could have been disrupted by an unfavorable ruling.
Snyder said regardless of people's feelings about the health overhaul, Michigan's Medicaid expansion has been an "outstanding success."
But if you thought the legal fight over the ACA is finally over, think again.
At least four issues related to the law are still being sorted out in the courts. None, though, seems to pose the same threat as the challenge to nationwide health plan subsidies that the Supreme Court now has rejected.
Among pending lawsuits: House Republicans are challenging some $175 billion the administration is paying health insurance companies over a decade to reimburse them for offering lowered rates for poor people. The House argues that Congress never specifically appropriated that money.
As well, dozens of religiously affiliated institutions do not like compromises the administration has put forward to allow women covered under those institutions' health plans to obtain contraceptives at no extra cost, while respecting religious objections to providing contraceptives.
Four federal appeals courts have sided with the administration on this issue, but other cases are pending and Catholic organizations in Pennsylvania have asked the Supreme Court to decide the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.