Jill B. Quadagno Ph.D.

Retired Professor, Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar
Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy
Florida State University
Email: jquadagno@fsu.edu Discipline: Sociology Expertise: Insurance

Investigator Award
National Health Insurance and American Exceptionalism: A Comparative Historical Analysis
Award Year: 1999 The lack of national health insurance is the most distinctive feature of America's welfare state, the prime example of a larger historic issue known as American Exceptionalism. Three presidents (Truman, Nixon, and Clinton) championed universal access to health care but failed to win congressional approval of their proposals. Yet, Medicare and Medicaid, which provide benefits for limited constituencies, were enacted. Using the comparative method, Dr. Quadagno analyzes historical forces that led to the defeat of national health insurance proposals and compares these failed plans with the successful enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. She develops a case study of national health insurance to illustrate fundamental features of American political development. Her work contributes to the understanding of one of the most perplexing health policy issues why the U.S. remains the only western, democratic nation without guaranteed access to care. Findings should help policymakers develop more realistic proposals for health reform, taking into account historical trends.


An internationally recognized expert on aging and public policy, Jill Quadagno is a retired professor of sociology at Florida State University, where she holds the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar Chair in Social Gerontology. She served as senior policy advisor on the President's Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform in 1994, and as president of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in 1998. Much of Quadagno's research has focused on aging policy and Social Security reform, her experiences working on the President's Bipartisan Commission and watching the rise and fall of universal health care in 1994 inspired her to turn her attention to the history of health reform efforts in the U.S. Four years of research laid the foundation for her book, One Nation, Uninsured: Why the U.S. Has No National Health Insurance (Oxford University Press, 2006). Quadagno is the author of 11 other books and more than 50 articles, including The Transformation of Old Age Security: Class and Politics in the American Welfare State and States, and Labor Markets and the Future of Old Age Policy. Her book, The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty (Oxford, 1996), was named Outstanding Book on the Subject of Human Rights in North America by the Gustavos Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights. She also has served on the editorial boards of the American Sociological Review, Contemporary Sociology, The Gerontologist, and the Journal of Aging Studies. She has been the recipient of grants from the National Institute on Aging and National Science Foundation, including an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women, which enabled her to teach and do research at Harvard University. In addition, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the ASA's Section on Aging, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.