Theses Doctoral

Strange Bedfellows: Public Health and Welfare Politics in the United States, 1965—2000

Aumoithe, George

“Strange Bedfellows” examines how the political economy of Medicaid and hospital provision shaped the social, political, and thus material response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. By doing so, this study explores the consequences of a decade-plus shift that began in the late 1960s, wherein federal, state, and local policymakers deemphasized epidemic preparedness and acute care in favor of downsized hospitals, increased outpatient services, and more “personal responsibility.” Over the course of seven chapters, the study links the transformation of Medicaid into a welfare medicine program; federal health planning’s shift from the pursuit of equality to cost-cutting; the role that anti-inflation policy played in curtailing subsidies for hospitals and clinics, which reduced access to acute care; the diminution of civil rights protections for quality healthcare; and the effects these developments had on the response to HIV/AIDS.

Challenging the notion that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was unforeseen and, thus, impossible to plan for, the study demonstrates how a series of purposeful decisions by presidential administrations, Congress, state legislatures, and city officials led to chronic underinvestment in public and voluntary hospitals that served poor people and people of color. A story of the neoliberal transformation of the Medicaid program and public and voluntary safety net hospitals, this dissertation illustrates how healthcare and welfare politics intertwined from the mid-1960s to the new millennium in ways that confounded the United States’ epidemic preparedness. A healthcare system focused on chronic disease by the 1960s and cost cutting in the 1970s could not cope with an emergent infectious disease like HIV/AIDS.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kessler-Harris, Alice
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 28, 2018