The American Hospital Association praised the Supreme Court's decision Thursday to affirm the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In a 5-4 vote, Chief Justice John Roberts -- a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush --  joined the court's liberal judges to rule the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance is in fact constitutional. The justices ultimately ruled that while the mandate, demonized for years by opponents as an example of government overreach, violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, five of the judges agreed that the penalty someone must pay if he or she refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. 

Today's historic decision lifts a heavy burden from millions of Americans who need access to health coverage.  The promise of coverage can now become a reality.

The decision means that hospitals now have much-needed clarity to continue on their path toward transformation, the American Hospital Association (AHA) said in a statement.

But transforming the delivery of health care will take much more than the strike of a gavel or stroke of a pen.  It calls for the entire health care community to continue to work together, along with patients and purchasers, to implement better coordinated, high-quality care. Now that the Supreme Court has made its decision, hospitals will continue their efforts to improve the law for patients, families and communities.

The AHA represents close to 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care. It also has 40,000 individual members.