At a panel dis­cus­sion in Dockser Hall on Tuesday, a trio of North­eastern pro­fes­sors addressed the con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges and polit­ical impli­ca­tions of the Supreme Court hearing argu­ments this week on the Afford­able Care Act. Photo by Dominick Reuter.

Regard­less of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture health-​​care leg­is­la­tion — the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act — the ver­dict will almost cer­tainly send seismic shocks through the 2012 pres­i­den­tial campaign.

If we gave the ‘Jeop­ardy!’ com­puter Watson all the prece­dent and asked him this legal ques­tion, there’s no doubt he would say the law is con­sti­tu­tional,” said Wendy Parmet, a Matthews Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor in the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity School of Law. “But in some cases,” she cau­tioned, “the Supreme Court doesn’t do what you think it will do according to prece­dent, which has espe­cially been the case in [Chief Jus­tice John] Roberts’ court.”

Parmet addressed more than 100 stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff who filled 250 Dockser Hall on Tuesday after­noon for a panel dis­cus­sion on the con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges and polit­ical impli­ca­tions of the Afford­able Care Act.

The dis­cus­sion was hosted by the Law School’s Pro­gram on Health Policy and Law and held as the Supreme Court was wrap­ping up its second day of delib­er­a­tions on the con­tro­ver­sial health care leg­is­la­tion passed in 2010. Michael Tolley, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence, and Kristin Madison, a pro­fessor of law and health sci­ences, were also on the panel.

The key issue in the Supreme Court case hinges on the indi­vidual man­date — the por­tion of the law that requires Amer­i­cans to pur­chase health insur­ance or face a penalty. “It’s prob­ably the only part of the act that any­body on either side of the picket line knows any­thing about,” Parmet said.

But the panel delved deeper into the case, dis­cussing the impli­ca­tions of other issues before the court, including Med­icaid and the Anti-​​Injunction Act, an 1867 law that could pre­vent the court from ruling on the case for sev­eral years.

Prior to the 2010 pas­sage of Obama’s Afford­able Care Act, very little had been done at the fed­eral level to extend health-​​care cov­erage since the cre­ation of Medicare and Med­icaid in the 1960s.

The Obama health-​​care law, Madison said, has already caused a sharp reduc­tion in unin­sured Amer­i­cans by allowing young people to remain on their par­ents’ insur­ance through the age of 26.

But many people dis­like the Afford­able Care Act. According to a CBS News/​New York Times poll con­ducted from March 21–25, 47 per­cent of Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove of the law, including 30 per­cent who strongly dis­ap­prove. Thirty-​​six per­cent of those polled said they sup­port the law either some­what or strongly.

One thing is for sure: The Supreme Court’s deci­sion on the health-​​care law, which is expected in June, is poised to make a close pres­i­den­tial elec­tion even more contentious.

If the Supreme Court were to strike down the indi­vidual man­date, the Repub­lican Party would almost cer­tainly get a boost,” Tolley said. “If the law is upheld, it could very well be con­strued to pro­duce a bump or bounce for Democ­rats and the pres­i­dent. Cer­tainly a favor­able deci­sion could be seen to pro­vide an advan­tage to Pres­i­dent Obama going into the November election.”

The Supreme Court is sched­uled to com­plete its final day of hear­ings on the Afford­able Care Act today, which will mark the longest con­sid­er­a­tion of a single case since Bush v. Gore resolved the 2000 pres­i­den­tial election.