Humans of Duke-Margolis: Donald H. Taylor, Jr.

March 13, 2017

This is the first post in a series that highlights faculty and staff expertise of the Duke-Margolis Center. 

Don Taylor is a professor of Public Policy at Duke University and a founding faculty member of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, among numerous other Duke University affiliations.

Most of his ongoing research is in the area of end of life policy with a focus on patient decision making and Medicare policy on hospice and palliative care.   He has served on national committees including National Academies Committee on Health Care Utilization and Adults with Disabilities and the HRSA Negotiated Rulemaking Committee that was created by the Affordable Care Act to reconsider how the federal government identifies Health Professional Shortage Areas and Medically Underserved Areas.

He holds three degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, including a PhD in Health Policy and Management from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.  Don regularly comments on health policy topics for the local, state and national media, most recently in the New York Times’ analysis of the Republican healthcare proposal, and is active in the health policy Twittersphere (@donaldhtaylorjr).

We sat down with Don to get to know him better, and we’re sharing the Q&A here:

Q:  Why did you get into the field of health policy and why has it sustained your interest?

A; I took an intro Health Policy class as an undergrad and then got a job copying papers from the Library for the professor who taught me (Tom Ricketts at UNC) and I read some of them and got interested. If I had gotten a job in the Biology Department, maybe I would be a Botanist.


Q: What is the one issue that policymakers don’t understand (or don’t focus on) that you think could make the biggest positive impact on the U.S. Healthcare system?

A:  Long Term Care – by and large people are just unprepared and our society is going to have more and more need for people to take care of our elders.  It is one of the most under-studied questions in health policy and one of the most important – but it is not a fun thing to think about.


Q:  Is there one example of a pilot, intervention or new payment model that you think has the most promise for moving healthcare reform in a positive direction?

A:  We did a study with elderly Medicare beneficiaries with cancer and about half of them said they would take less ‘last ditch chemo’ in return for flexible resources to help them remain at home and in control of their lives as long as possible. Actually providing a group of patients with this choice and seeing if they are willing to make this choice and to what effect would be a key step ahead.

Q:  What is the most surprising thing you learned, studied, found, read in the field over the past year?

A:  I can't believe that after 6 years of saying how much they hated Obamacare, and pointing out legitimate problems with risk pooling in the individual insurance markets, that Republicans wrote a health care plan that would make adverse selection worse.