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Professor Rob Field Discusses Insurers’ Pull Outs from Obamacare on WHYY

Professor Robert Field

August 18, 2016

The withdrawal of Aetna and other major insurers from health care exchanges set up under Obamacare does not necessarily mean the reforms are doomed, Professor Robert Field said during an interview on WHYY’s Radio Times on Aug. 16.

“This is a very new product for the insurance industry; there’s a learning curve,” Field said. “Like many new markets, there’s a lot of volatility.”

An expert on health care policy and law, Field said it’s too early to expect the complex overhaul of health insurance to work perfectly.

“We’re learning where the landmines are,” Field said.

But, Field noted, some markets could be left with just one - or less – insurers, which would undermine competition that helps to control costs.   

With the struggles facing President Obama’s signature reforms becoming a topic of the current presidential race, Field said GOP nominee Donald Trumps’ vow to repeal the law is unrealistic both because Congress would have to endorse the move and because pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and those hired by insurance companies would be adversely affected.

“Small businesses have been hit, but on balance, it would cut more jobs than it would save,” Field said.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is advocating an expansion of the ACA in a tactical nod to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Field noted that the public option was politically unpalatable at the time when Obamacare was enacted.  

“There were a lot of compromises in the sausage-making of the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Depending on the make-up of Congress, the sausage making could come out differently this time. “

Field was also interviewed about Aetna’s decision to withdraw from health exchanges in Pennsylvania and 10 other states in a WHYY Newsworks segment that aired on Aug. 16.

Field is the author of "Mother of Invention: How the Government Created 'Free-Market' Health Care," which was published by Oxford University Press.