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Media Turn to Professor Robert Field for Insights on Health Exchange Rollout

Professor Robert Field

October 02, 2013

With controversy surrounding Obamacare sparking a federal government shutdown and public confusion swirling around the Affordable Care Act, media outlets have called on Professor Robert Field to assess the complex law.

Health exchanges that debuted on Oct. 1 to help the uninsured find coverage have been inaccurately defined by critics who have seized the upper hand in a messaging war, Field said during an interview on WHYY’s Radio Times on Sept. 30.

Critics have boiled their objections down into simple if inaccurate descriptions like “government takeover,” while the Obama Administration has failed to come up with a message that explains the reform clearly, Field said.

“If it were up to me, I’d call it the ‘Guaranteed Coverage Law,’” Field said, adding that the law only applies to those who currently can’t get health insurance, or some 10 to 15 percent of the population.

But if the White House has been “clumsy” in its marketing of the law, Field added, it has been hobbled by the sheer complexity of the existing health care system, which historically has been driven by the free market.

Short of adopting a single-payer system or “Medicare for all,” Field said, the effort to insure more people though a privately run system is inevitably a complex undertaking.

The law has already produced benefits for many, Field said, noting parents’ ability to include adult children up to the age of 26 on their policies and the elimination of co-pays for mammograms and other cancer-screenings.

“Most people probably do not realize that they received the services without a co-pay,” he said. “The message is not out there that you got your mammogram, you got your screening for cancer free because of this law.”

It remains to be seen if the law will achieve the goal of reducing the cost of health care, Field said, since a greater number of insured people could increase demand for services and drive prices upward.

During an interview on KKSF Radio in San Francisco on Oct. 1, (interview begins at 14:00), Field noted that the controversy surrounding Obamacare is hardly unprecedented. In 1965, Field said, the introduction of Medicare sparked a “bitter partisan battle,” with many referring to the program as “socialized medicine” and the American Medical Association voicing staunch opposition. Today, the professor noted, “no one would dream of seriously touching it.”

In an Oct. 2 article on the CNN website about glitches that occurred when the health exchanges went live, Field said the system probably crashed because of intense public interest.

“I think a lot of people trying to get on were just curious, like me,” Field said.

As a guest on FOX-29’s Good Day on Oct. 2, Field said the online registration for the health exchanges that have launched was designed to work like Travelocity, enabling consumers to shop around for the services and rates that best match their needs. Depending on a person’s income, they may qualify for significant government subsidies.

Once consumers sign up, Field said, they should make sure that the doctors and hospitals they most want to provide their care will be covered under the plan they are purchasing.