NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the "individual mandate" component of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
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Supporters celebrated outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. when the landmark ruling was announced by Chief Justice John Roberts shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday.
The judgment means that starting in 2014, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. It also requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and allows children to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.
"Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country," Obama said. "Today, I'm as confident as ever that when we look back -- five years from now, 10 years from now or 20 years from now -- we'll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward."
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quick to respond, calling the bill "bad policy."
Speaking on Capitol Hill, he said if elected, he will make overturning the law his top priority.
"Obamacare was bad policy yesterday, it's bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday, it's bad law today," he said. "If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that."
LINK: Read The Full Decision
The court was sharply divided in its 5-4 decision.
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Roberts sided with the court's four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in saying that the mandate can be upheld when 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.
Anthony Kennedy, the so-called court swing vote, joined three conservatives in the dissent, which said, "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.''
"In our view, the act before us is invalid in its entirety,'' Kennedy said.
Reaction was swift around the country.
Outside the Supreme Court, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called it "a great day for Americans."
"It is a great day. It is a great day for Americans. Not for one party or the other or for an ideology, but for the 34 million Americans who will have access to affordable and available health care," she said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also praised the court's ruling.
"Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and his administration, particularly Secretary Sebelius, the Affordable Care Act will provide access to health care to millions of Americans nationwide and more than one million New Yorkers, and I am pleased the Supreme Court upheld this law," he said in a statement. "We will continue to move forward with implementing the health exchange that will lower coverage costs for New York's businesses and help ensure that uninsured New Yorkers have access to health care."
Conn. Gov. Dan Malloy said the ruling "has a very positive impact" on the Constitution State.
"There are 500,000 people who, if this decision had gone the wrong way, would've lost their access to health care in 2014," he said.
But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the decision "disappointing."
"I've been clear from the very beginning that I do not believe a one-size-fits-all health care program works for the entire country and that each governor should have the ability to make decisions about what works best for their state," Christie said in a statement. "Today's Supreme Court decision is disappointing and I still believe this is the wrong approach for the people of New Jersey who should be able to make their own judgments about health care."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he doesn't expect to see any immediate changes in health coverage.
"I think by and large, the health care system has already adapted to these rules and regulations anyway, so it's hard to see that anything is going to change tomorrow," he said. "It's just now there is no argument, this is the law. Congress had a right to pass it, the president had a right to sign it and now let's get on and make it work."
There are more than 30 million uninsured Americans. In the Tri-State area alone, there are 2,886,000 uninsured residents in New York, 1.3 million uninsured residents in New Jersey and 656,000 uninsured residents in Connecticut.
A Quinnipiac University poll in April found that 49 percent of voters wanted the Supreme Court to overturn the health care law while 38 percent were in favor of the court upholding the bill.
Political experts agree that the health care debate will continue to be a part of 2012 campaign.
"It continues to be an issue, but the debate moves on with the president having his legislative program intact so the argument that Romney was starting to make that the three and a half years were wasted, that one is over," said Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute.
Republicans are already promising to introduce legislation to repeal the bill.
While the "individual mandate" component of the law was upheld, the Medicaid expansion was struck down. However, the court said it can still be allowed so long as states are permitted to opt out and not be forced to join.
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