Miller Center

Health Care

National Discussion and Debate Series
Health Care

On April 9, 2008, the National Discussion and Debate Series debated the right to universal health care at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall. Four participants examined the resolution: "Americans have a fundamental right to health care, and it is the obligation of government to secure that right."

JudyAnn Bigby, MD, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and Regina Herzlinger, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, spoke in favor of the resolution. Dick Armey, Chairman of FreedomWorks and former House Majority Leader, and Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, argued against. Susan Dentzer, Health Correspondent for PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, moderated the debate.

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Resolved: Americans have a fundamental right to health care, and it is the obligation of government to secure that right.

Susan Dentzer
Susan Dentzer is an on-air correspondent with PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, where she leads a unit devoted to in-depth coverage of health care, health policy, and Social Security. Prior to joining the The NewsHour in 1998, she was chief economics correspondent and economics columnist for U.S. News & World Report, and was a senior writer covering business news at Newsweek. Dentzer has appeared on ABC's Nightline, CNN, and PBS's The McLaughlin Group. Chair of the advisory board of the California Health Benefits Review Committee, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Rescue Committee and the Board of Overseers of Dartmouth Medical School. Dentzer and her NewsHour unit have received multiple awards, including the 2005 Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism from the Association of Health Care Journalists and the first-place Gracie Allen Award for Public Television News from American Women in Radio and Television.

JudyAnn Bigby, MD
JudyAnn Bigby, MD is Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where she oversees seventeen state agencies. Chair of the Health Care Quality and Cost Council, one of her top priorities is ensuring that the state delivers high-quality services to Massachusetts residents. Bigby is the former Medical Director of Community Health Programs at Brigham & Women's Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, as well as Director of the School's Center of Excellence in Women's Health. The editor of Cross-Cultural Medicine (American College of Physicians, 2001), she has published a number of studies and participated in conferences and forums across the country related to health care disparities and the needs of vulnerable populations.

Richard Armey
Richard Armey is Chairman of FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. First elected to Congress representing Texas in 1984, Armey was later appointed ranking Republican on the Joint Economic Committee as well as the GOP Conference Chairman. He was the main author of the Contract with America, the legislative agenda that in 1994 propelled Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. Armey served as House Majority Leader from 1995 to 2003. Since joining FreedomWorks in 2003, he has traveled to more than twenty states, rallying grassroots efforts, testifying before state and federal governments, and meeting with legislators. Armey's books include Price Theory: A Policy-Welfare Approach (Prentice Hall, 1997) and The Flat Tax: A Citizen's Guide to the Facts on What It Will Do for You, Your Country, and Your Pocketbook (Ballantine Books, 1996).

Regina E. Herzlinger
Regina E. Herzlinger is the Nancy R. McPherson Professor of Business Administration Chair at the Harvard Business School, where she was the first woman to be tenured and chaired. She is widely recognized for her innovative research in health care, and Money magazine has dubbed her the "Godmother" of consumer-driven health care. Modern Healthcare's readers have selected Herzlinger as among the "100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare" each year since 2003, and Managed Healthcare named her one of health care's top ten thinkers. Her research has been reported in numerous publications, including The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Herzlinger's books include Who Killed Health Care? (McGraw-Hill, 2007) and Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers, and Policymakers (Jossey-Bass, 2004). She has twice been awarded the American College of Healthcare Executives' Hamilton Book of the Year Award.

Richard A. Epstein
Richard A. Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1972. He has also been the Peter and Kirstin Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution since 2000. A director of the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Epstein has also taught law at the University of Southern California, where he served as Interim Dean. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Senior Fellow of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago Medical School. His books include Overdose: How Excessive Government Regulation Stifles Pharmaceutical Innovation (Yale University Press, 2006) and Mortal Peril: Our Inalienable Rights to Health Care (Addison-Wesley, 1997). Epstein has written numerous articles on various legal and interdisciplinary subjects, and has taught courses in health law and policy.

Research and Scholarship

Presidential Recordings Program

Nixon Discusses Benefits of HMOs

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In this excerpt transcribed by the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program, Richard Nixon and domestic policy advisor John Ehrlichman discuss the virtues of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) as a means to control costs and as a private alternative to the national health care proposal being championed by Senator Edward Kennedy...listen to tape

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Is the provision of health care a fundamental right in the United States? Does government have an obligation to provide health care for all citizens - or at least, to make sure the systems and financing are in place, in or out of government, for them to get it? Many countries...Read More

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Gail Wilensky, May 17, 2004

Gail Wilensky, an economist and a Senior Fellow at Project HOPE (an international health education foundation), analyzes and develops policies relating to health care reform and to ongoing changes in the health care environment... Read More