Harvard law professors, students, cheer Supreme Court decision on health care act

At Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation clinic in Jamaica Plain this morning, more than a dozen law students and professors gathered around a conference table, laptops open, glued to the Supreme Court’s live blog.

As they waited for the high court’s ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act, Harvard Law School professor Robert Greenwald, the director of the center, tapped his foot, declaring how nervous he was.

“I’m having trouble breathing,” Greenwald said.

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The Center for Health Law Policy Innovation, a clinic out of Harvard Law School, works to help vulnerable populations around the country, especially low-income people with chronic disease, obtain access to healthcare, so the students and professors there had a particular interest in the ruling.

When they read online that the individual mandate survived, they erupted into cries of “Yes!” and pumped their fists in the air.

Then, they waited for the rest of the decision.

“C’mon, why is this taking so long?” Greenwald said, as they toggled screens between the SCOTUS blog and CNN.

“One says it’s struck down, one says it’s upheld — what is going on?” said Emily Broad-Leib, associate director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

At the news that the health care law was largely upheld, they gasped, then erupted into applause. Some, like Faina Shalts, a fellow at the clinic, cheered “Yay, Roberts!” and gave each other high-fives.

“Oh God — thank you, Roberts,” said Amy Rosenberg, an associate director at the center, clasping her hands to her face.

“We are so incredibly excited — I was about to cry,” said Broad-Leib. “We’re in the midst of a time that’s really polarized. I’m just so excited to see the court be able to come together and get beyond the politics of it.”

“As a lawyer, this gives me a renewed faith,” Greenwald said, speaking about Justice Roberts’ decision to rule in favor of upholding the health care act. “To see that it wasn’t clearly around political ideology — it’s a great thing to see.”

But, Greenwald said, the court’s decision on Medicaid expansion, which prevents the federal government from decreasing funding to states that choose not to expand their Medicaid plans, was a bit of a disappointment.

“The whole point of this was to finally have a national health care program,” Greenwald said. “From an advocacy perspective, now we have to work in all 50 states to educate states as to the importance of health care expansion.”