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Researching Health Policy Legislation

This is a brief guide to researching current U.S. health policy issues and legislation on the internet. Tracking legislation through Congress can be a complicated process. Consult the Government Information Research Guide to U.S. Legislative History Sources for a step-by-step explanation of the process and the tools, both in print and on the internet, used for following legislation from the introduction of a bill, to its passage into law, to eventual regulatory enforcement.

Background Information & Evaluation in Journals | Sources for Legislation and Policy | Sources for Evaluation Within Government | Selected Sources for Evaluation/Information | Other Library Web Pages

Background Information & Evaluation in Journals

Sources for background information on legislation, its implementation, and consequences are:

CQ Weekly
via Congressional Quarterly (1983 to present) UCB Access Only
Pre-eminent resource for nonpartisan information about US government and congressional affairs and subjects of concern. This online version also provides access to some articles prior to when they appear in the print version of CQ Weekly. Historical copies:


Congress and the Nation. (Available online and in paper)
Washington, D.C. : CQ Press, 1945-
Each volume covers governmental action during a four-year presidential term, divided into broad themes like Economic Policy, Foreign Policy, or Housing and Urban Aid, with chronologies and further references. Useful for determining intent of both the congressional and executive branches.


Congress Collection from CQ
Provides historical analysis of members of Congress, their legislative voting behavior, interest group ratings, public policy legislation, current committees, background information and definitions, and chronology related to US Congress.

Congressional Quarterly Almanac. Annual.
Washington, D.C. : CQ Press, 1953-
CQ covers everything that goes on in Congress, indexed; useful to determine dates, chronologies, bill titles and numbers. Also a good source for a succinct analysis of the issues related to a particular piece of legislation. Use the weeklies for current legislation, the annual almanac for prior years. Congressional Quarterly is the best source to use for initial identification of legislation to research. Note: Only bills which were passed into law will have legislative histories.

Expanded Academic ASAP (1980 - present) UCB Access Only
Indexes over 9 million articles from popular magazines, general interest journals, scholarly journals and newspapers in the humanities, social sciences, and general sciences.

Health Affairs
Health care policy journal, featuring articles and papers submitted by various health care policy experts.

Health Care Financing Review. Quarterly.
Washington, D.C. : Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 1979-
Scholarly journal from CMMS -- a good source for comprehensive health care financing information, including evaluation and review.


Lexis-Nexis Academic UCB Access Only
A source of full text newspapers and news magazines; useful for reportage and public debate of issues.

National Journal Group's Policy Central UCB Access Only
A comprehensive resource on politics and policy for the academic community. Included are National Journal Group's publications and databases including:

PAIS Archive and PAIS International (1915-present) UCB Access Only
Indexes books, journals, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference reports, and web sources related to public policy, politics, economics, and social issues worldwide.

PolicyFile (1990 - present) UCB Access Only
Index to public policy in the areas of economics, politics, the environment, and social issues, taken from reports from a wide range of think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, international governmental organizations, and other institutions worldwide.

PubMed (1953 - present) UCB Access Only also via NLM
Access to citations from MEDLINE, PreMEDLINE, other journals in the field of medicine and life sciences

Research Library (ProQuest) (1971 - present) UCB Access Only
Indexes more than 2,500 magazine and journals on art, business, humanities, health, social sciences, and sciences.

Social Work Abstracts (1977 - present) UCB Access Only
Indexes more than 450 journals related to social work on topics such as homelessness, AIDS, child and family welfare, aging, substance abuse, legislation, and community organization.

Sociological Abstracts (1963 - present) UCB Access Only
Indexes over 1,900 journals, books, dissertations, and reviews in the social sciences on sociological topics as well as selected anthropology, criminology, demography, law, social psychology, and urban development.

Locate via other sources via UCB Library's Find Electronic Resources page.

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Sources for Legislation and Policy

Some major U.S. governmental sites and resources for health policy legislation are:

LexisNexis Congressional UCB Access Only
Indexing and abstracting of congressional publications dating back to 1789. LexisNexis Congressional has written submitted testimony for almost all congressional hearings from 1993 forward. There are full-text hearings from 1824-1979 (digitization project not compleated). Coverage from 1988 to 1993 is less comprehensive. CIS Legislative Histories by keyword back to 1970. Legislative Histories are the detailed records of congressional legislation, containing references to all bills, hearings, committee reports, etc., associated with all public laws. Materials not in UCB's Collection may be obtained via Direct Loan.

Source for current bills and other legislative activities. Bill Summary & Status and search on "Subject Term" using topics such as "Health Policy" or "Disabled" to retrieve a list of bills that relate to those topics. At the top of the page search previous congresses as well.

Congressional Research Tutorials
These tutorials illustrate the basics of searching LexisNexis Congressional, Thomas for various congressional publications, as well as using the Congressional Record paper index. Also includes links to current congressional news and recent votes. More tutorials will be added in the future.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS)
Formerly known as the Health Care Financing Agency (HCFA), this is the federal agency that administers the Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Programs. Much information is available on this site, including health care spending projections, the Medicare Handbook, statistics and data, etc. Of particular interest is the section on Laws & Regulations, which contains links to full text of major legislation affecting CMMS, the President's legislative proposals, hearings and appeals, and Federal Register notices.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Policies & Regulations
Links to the major laws and regulations which direct health care in the U.S., the policies & guidelines used within HHS, and testimony of HHS official before Congress.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)
MedPAC is an independent federal body that advises the U.S. Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program. The Commission's 17 members, who bring diverse expertise in the financing and delivery of health services, meet publicly to discuss policy issues and formulate recommendations to the Congress on improving Medicare policies.

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Sources for Evaluation Within Government

There are some agencies which exist solely to serve as "watchdogs" of other agencies and their expenditures and policies. They include:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce its cost, and broaden access to essential services.

Congressional Budget Office
CBO's mission is to provide the Congress with objective, timely, nonpartisan analyses needed for economic and budget decisions and with the information and estimates required for the Congressional budget process. Types of documents to be found here are: Studies & Reports and Cost Estimates.

Government Accountability Office (GAO)
GAO is the investigative arm of Congress. Charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and disbursement of public funds, GAO performs audits and evaluations of Government programs and activities.

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Selected Sources for Evaluation/Information

Alliance for Health Reform
The Alliance for Health Reform offers an exhaustive list of health care policy experts and their affiliations, along with phone numbers and Web addresses.

Almanac of Policy Issues
Provides comprehensive background information and links on major U.S. public policy issues.

Center for Health and Public Policy Studies
Conducts research and policy analysis on current issues in health policy and politics that affect California and the nation. Provides data and organizes convenings that support public policies to develop an affordable, high-quality health care system.

Kaiser Family Foundation
Provides factsheets on various government-funded medical programs, such as Medicare/Medicaid.

National Academy for State Health Policy
Non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to helping states achieve excellence in health policy and practice.

A nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis.

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Other Library Web Pages

American Government and Public Policy Internet Resources

California Government and Public Policy Internet Resources

California Legislative and Regulatory Sources

Guides to Congress

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