Experts give talk on health law and government | The Triangle

Experts give talk on health law and government

Drexel University School of Law presented a lecture and discussion on health law Jan. 30 with professors Robert I. Field and Barry R. Furrow. A month after the Affordable Care Act went into effect Jan. 1, acclaimed authors and nationally renowned health law experts Field and Furrow offered insight on the topic of health law, followed by a reception and book signing.

The presentation began with a discussion by Field on his new book, “Mother of Invention: How the Government Created ‘Free-Market’ Health Care.” Published November 2013 by Oxford University Press, Field began writing the book in 2008, long before the Affordable Care Act was a topic of debate. In it, he argues that the success of the private health care market is a result of government involvement.

“I take four key sectors of health care — pharmaceuticals, hospitals, the medical profession and health insurance — and dive into them to show how they grow due to government intervention, not despite government intervention,” Field said during the discussion.

Field also cites the role of government organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health, as evidence for the necessary relationship between government and the private sector. In his discussion, he emphasized the fact that private pharmaceutical companies cannot afford to begin the funding of large, risky and expensive medical research endeavors.

“Basic biomedical research, something that benefits us all, is something that private companies can’t afford to do. If they make a finding, it’s a law of nature, so it’s not patentable. It is there for anyone to use,” Field said. “Government steps in to provide the public good that is basic biomedical research so that private industry can attempt to commercialize and create products that they can sell.”

One key example of the relationship between government and the private sector is the Human Genome Project. While mapping the human genome would prove to be a beneficial endeavor for health care as a whole, it is a project that Field described as “too speculative” for the private sector to risk beginning on its own.

Since the government began the Human Genome Project, private pharmaceutical companies have been asked by the National Institutes of Health to research specific genomes, resulting in the invention of many new drugs and therapies.

“With a quarter of all health care spending coming from the government, has that crowded out the private sector? Quite to the contrary — the amount of private money spent on health care per capita has continued to go through the roof. I would say that shows a synergy, not an antagonism, in the relationship between the two,” Field said.

Following Field’s discussion, Furrow spoke and pulled from his book, “Health Law: Cases, Materials and Problems.” Supplementing the previous presentation, Furrow joined Field to give an expert’s opinion on the state of health law.

Furrow claims his book is an unbiased look at health law, serving as a guide for health law educators for the past two decades. In its seventh edition, “Health Law” gives students a chance to comprehensively examine topics as recent as the Affordable Care Act, in addition to looking at the ethical and legal perspectives of many other pressing medical issues today.

“I think we are so fortunate to have them as professors. We’re learning out of books that they themselves wrote; books that law professors at other universities will actually use to teach their own classes,” Andrea Dragonette, a second-year law student, said.

Field is the director of the dual Juris Doctor-Master of Public Health program at Drexel, holding a joint appointment as a professor of law at Drexel’s School of Law and a professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health. He is also a teacher of health law at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Furrow is a Harvard Law School graduate who came to Drexel after years of working with Widener University, where he founded the Health Law Institute. A pioneer of health law, his previous work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“If I go anywhere and mention that I’m a Drexel law student, people always mention their names,” Dragonette said.