Numerous news outlets quoted Professor Robert Field concerning a variety of issues in health care policy in early January.
On CBS Philly, Field commented on a federal lawsuit that was filed in response to fines levied against a Lancaster County company that declined to provide contraceptive services to female employees. In the lawsuit, the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation argued that providing contraceptive services, as required by the ACA, violated their religious beliefs.
Field had previously discussed this issue in a WHYY interview on Jan. 4. At that time he was skeptical that the owners would succeed in their challenge. "The problem here is that if everyone can claim religious objection to health reform or to any law, how do you ever enforce it," Field said.
On Jan. 12, the federal court ruled against the owners. Field suggested that the court made the appropriate decision, "religion is something that individual human beings engage in, it’s not something that corporations engage in," Field told CBS Philly. By choosing to engage in commerce as a corporation, Field added, the owners' religious beliefs became irrelevant and, thus, the corporation must adhere to the same set of rules as other corporations.
Field also questioned the relevance of the owners' religious beliefs in a CBS Philly interview that aired Jan. 2. The important issue in the case is ACA’s religious neutrality, “if a law is religiously neutral — doesn’t single out a religion — then everyone must comply with it,” Field said.
On Jan. 9, Field discussed the emerging role of pharmacies as health care providers and rising insurance rates on the American Public Media program, Marketplace.
"We are seeing an unexpected spurt of premium increases for small employers and people who obtain policies directly from the insurance company," Field said in a story about rising health-care insurance premiums on Marketplace.
Field suggested that insurance companies are trying to lock in premium hikes before the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed into law takes full effect.
The day before, Marketplace quoted Field in a separate story on the proliferation of flu vaccinations administered at pharmacies. Field said the proliferation of drug-store administered vaccines will ultimately keep health care costs down.
"First, it's going to improve access to the system. Secondly, you are going to have lower cost providers offering basic services that you don't really need a physician for," he added.
In a Jan. 2 WHYY article and corresponding radio broadcast, Field discussed the omission of the ACA's Medicare program from Congress’ so-called Fiscal Cliff deal.
Field acknowledged that, if not now, Medicare costs will have to be addressed soon. To do so, however, Congress would have to recognize that the problems do not lie with the program’s management but with rising medical costs.
“It’s not just a question of attacking those government programs,” Field said. “Those government programs are not mismanaged, they are just operating in a world in which medicine gets more expensive by the day.”