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Professor Robert Field Discusses Affordable Care Act Contraception Mandate Challenge, Fiscal Cliff, on WHYY, CBS Philly

January 08, 2013

The federal courts have been addressing challenges arising out of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). On NPR Affiliate, WHYY, Professor Robert Field, a nationally recognized expert on health policy and public health law, discussed a federal lawsuit involving fines levied against a Lancaster County company for failing 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 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.

The owners’ religious beliefs are not relevant as virtually anyone could argue that virtually every law infringes on someone’s beliefs, he added.  What is important in this case, however, is the ACA’s religious neutrality, “if a law is religiously neutral — doesn’t single out a religion — then everyone must comply with it,”  Field told CBS Philly in an earlier interview.

Meanwhile, in a Jan. 2 WHYY article and corresponding radio broadcast (at 9:01), Professor Robert Field,  discussed how revisions to the ACA's Medicare program were left out of 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.”

Field remains optimistic that President Obama will persuade Congress to substantively address Medicare and Medicaid issues in coming months.