With a new president and a new Congress taking up the nation's business in less than two weeks, health care reform will loom large on the national agenda. That makes it a timely and relevant subject for University of Colorado at Boulder political science professor and CU President Emeritus Hank Brown to tackle this semester, which he and a CU-Boulder undergraduate political science class will do in a special course titled "The Politics of Health Care Reform."
The class is the first of a "Great Issues Series" of special topics Brown is developing for the political science department as part of his appointment last year to the Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership. During the spring semester each year, the Great Issues Series will focus in depth on policy topics in political science that will leverage Brown's public policy experience from 30 years as a legislator, congressman, U.S. senator and higher education executive. The series will feature guest speakers from all three branches of government and other areas within the public and private sectors.
This semester, the series will feature lectures by health care policy experts and thought leaders representing a wide range of experience and viewpoints. Among them will be former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, who has been outspoken on the issue of health care reform since his tenure as governor from 1975 to 1987. Lamm, now a professor at the University of Denver, will kick off the series with a special lecture on Jan. 12. In addition to students, attendees will comprise members of the public, alumni and friends of the university who have signed up in advance. All of the open seats to the lectures have been filled.
"I'm looking forward to having Gov. Lamm kick off our lecture series," said Brown. "He understood and talked openly about the implications of health care reform long before it was on most policymakers' radar screens. He will, I have no doubt, provoke the kind of in-depth discussion we want to have in class."
Brown, who served Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981-91) and U.S. Senate (1991-97), saw first-hand how the issue of health care reform emerged in the early 1980s and then grew to be one of a number of issues to dominate the political landscape by the time he left the Senate in 1997.
"Today, the nation is poised for a focused discussion and, quite possibly, major change in health care policy," Brown said. "I think it will be exciting to have the kinds of discussions and analyses going on in our class that mirror what will be heard in committees in Congress and in the halls of state government across the nation."
Also confirmed to lecture to Brown's class are current Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield (Feb. 2); Dr. Ron Haskins (Feb. 9), senior fellow and co-director for the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and former chief of staff of the House Ways and Means Committee; Peg Brown, deputy commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Colorado Division of Insurance; Dale Eisler, Canadian consul general; and Dr. Malik Hasan, founder of HealthNet Inc. and Health Trio LLC, and a pioneer in the development of health maintenance organizations.
Brown also has invited a slate of national figures including 2008 presidential candidate and long-time activist Ralph Nader, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"We're waiting to hear from them, but I'm hopeful they will be able to attend," said Brown. "You will find a great variance of perspectives on health care policy represented in these three national leaders and in the others we have invited this semester."
CU political science department chair Ken Bickers said he is excited for the department to take advantage of Brown's long experience in government and public life in creating the Great Issues Series.
"Being able to study the pressing public policy issues of the day while being guided by someone who helped to directly shape them in Washington gives our students a real insider's view of public policy," said Bickers. "President Brown also is able to bring to us a host of guest lecturers who have played a key role in actually forming policy, so we will benefit greatly from his contacts as well."
Brown joined CU-Boulder's faculty last spring after serving for three years (2005-08) as president of the University of Colorado. Alongside his political science appointment, he holds the Quigg and Virginia S. Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership at CU-Boulder and is an adjunct professor in the CU School of Law.