Professor Paul Starr Provides Insight in Health Care Reform Debate
Web Editor - Published: November 22, 2009
“National health care reform has been a long time coming,” remarked Princeton University Professor Paul Starr to a sizable audience in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom and to those watching via webcast, before adding, “We’ve come further now than we ever have before, but the problem is going to be getting those sixty votes in the Senate.”

Professor Starr’s lecture, “Health Care Reform: The Long View,” followed a brief introduction from Health Law Institute Director John G. Culhane, who thanked the Raynes McCarty law firm for the generous donation that made the 5th annual Raynes McCarty Lecture possible. Professor Starr also gave the lecture earlier in the day at a luncheon event at the Union League in Philadelphia, which the Philadelphia Inquirer covered.

In discussing the historical context of the health care reform debate, Professor Starr noted that in the past, compromise between Republicans and Democrats would have been possible, citing work done by Richard Nixon and Senator Edward Kennedy that derailed after the Watergate Scandal brought down Nixon’s administration. Describing the current situation with regard to health care reform, Professor Starr called Republican opposition “almost entirely ideological and partisan.” He noted that in the past, the opposition had often come from interest groups, but that those groups, including insurance agencies and pharmaceutical companies, have been largely silent during the Obama administration’s push for health care reform.

“We want a system where the private insurers are driven to improve the quality of care and their service,” stated Professor Starr in discussing the Senate Bill put forth by Senator Harry Reid the night before. Pointing out the reason for the mandate for individual coverage, he added, “Health insurance can only work if there are healthy people insured as well as sick people.” Professor Starr also sounded a note of disappointment that the Senate Bill puts off the opening of Insurance Exchanges until January 2014, saying, “Why do we have to wait four or five years?”

At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Professor Starr took questions from the audience on how costs are calculated, the role of tort reform, what the future would hold if current reform efforts fell through and the link between non-profit hospitals and charity. Professor Starr answered each of the questions and indicated that a failure to address health care reform now would be a tremendous deterrent to any future president from addressing the issue again.

The Stuart Chair in Communications and Public Affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Professor Starr graduated from Columbia University and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is the author of several books and received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction as well as the Bancroft Prize in American history for The Social Transformation of American Medicine. He also received the 2005 Goldsmith Book Prize for The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications.