This guide is intended to support the students and staff of the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School as they research and report on health care litigation initiatives at both state and federal levels.
You may find additional information, including more substantive legal research strategy and a broader range of sources in these additional guides:
Bloomberg, Lexis, and Westlaw provide access to primary, secondary, and practice-focused legal sources. Browsing by topic or practice area can help you can find cases, statutes, regulations, secondary sources and the latest information from the field all in one place. You can search for specific terms or use the filers to refine your results.
Click on the images below to be taken directly to the Health Law practice areas in these three commercial databases (login credentials required). If you do not have login credentials, note: Bloomberg and Westlaw terminals are available at the Law School Library for all Harvard patrons.
Use these links to access health law cases from the major legal databases - login credentials required.
There are several subject-specific case reporters that may be of interest to health law researchers. Keep in mind that these reporters may or may not be considered authoritative based on the context of your research. They do, however, contain cases that may not have been reported in Federal and State reporters that are included in the major legal research databases. For this reason, they should not be overlooked!
Federal and State regulations make up a substantial portion of what we consider to be primary sources in health law research. While statutes may enable change in health policy (such as the Affordable Care Act) and create specific health programs (such as Medicare and Medicaid), the way in which those policies and programs are administered relies primarily on Federal and State regulations.
If you are unfamiliar with how to conduct regulatory research, please visit the administrative law guides linked on the right. Here are some links to specific agency regulations and resources in Lexis and Westlaw that can aid in conducting research within health law regulations:
In addition to promulgating regulations, agencies are also empowered (in many cases) to adjudicate challenges to regulatory policy. These agency decisions are not included in the general body of case law, and can be accessed only through the agencies themselves or through specific reporters that collect such information. Here are links to administrative decisions and reporters:
The regulatory process can be complex and difficult to follow, especially in the field of health care where multiple agencies can be involved in promulgating regulations. This visual overview can be helpful, but may be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with regulatory affairs:
As a general rule, it is easier start with a particular regulation by number or agency by name before diving in to search by topics or keywords. Secondary sources such as current awareness/news sources, scholarly articles, or advocacy communications are extremely helpful in getting started.
There are multiple websites, all published by different departments within the U.S. Government, where you can find information about proposed regulations and track them through the regulatory process.
FederalRegister.gov is managed by the Office of the Federal Register and the U.S. Government Printing Office with the goal of making it easier to understand the regulatory process and the broader context surrounding rulemaking. Each day Federal agencies publish documents in the Federal Register, including proposed rules, final rules, public notices, and Presidential actions. The print-based, official format of the Federal Register displays information in a dense format (3-column PDF). This unofficial, HTML (XML-based) format demonstrates how an alternate format can effectively convey regulatory information to the public.The site connects the same material printed in the federal register with related material from the Code of Federal Regulations and the US Code.
By setting up an account, you can subscribe to the results of any search, to public inspection documents, via any agency page, and on many other pages of FederalRegister.gov. Look for the envelope icon with the words 'Subscribe' (on the right hand side of many pages) to get started.
Regulations.gov was established as the public facing website for the eRulemaking Program, and allows users to search regulatory materials, submit comments, and sign up for email alerts. In the past, if members of the public were interested in commenting on a regulation, they would need to know the sponsoring agency, when it would be published, review it in a reading room, and then adhere to the comment process specific to each agency. Regulations.gov removed the logistical barriers that made it difficult for a citizen to participate in the complex regulatory process. Some agencies still require that comments be submitted through their own individual platforms, but this site serves as a clearinghouse for the majority of publicly available material.
Reginfo.gov is produced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA). OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is responsible for reviewing Federal regulations and information collections. The site provides reliable, transparent information about regulations under development to enable the public to participate effectively in the regulatory process.
OIRA recently released a mobile app that includes many of the helpful tools available on Reginfo.gov in a mobile format, as well as the ability to subscribe to updates about a particular regulation via the RIN number. The app is available for download from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
Federal and state statutes related to health law may be difficult to identify because they are scattered across the codes. Remember that an annotated code such as the USCA is a researcher's goldmine. The annotations will include cases, other code sections, and related regulations. State and Federal Annotated Codes are available in both Lexis and Westlaw, as well as in print at the rear of the Law School Library Reference Room.
When considering the impact of Federal and State statutes related to health law, it may be helpful to consider legislative intent, earlier versions of the law, or supporting testimony/material. For that type of research, it is best to consult a published legislative history (if available) or search congressional publications.
In comparing state laws, another great research tool is a 50 state survey. These surveys related to health law can save a lot of time and research effort:
The Center for Medicare Advocacy is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan law organization that provides education, advocacy, and legal assistance to help people obtain fair access to Medicare. In addition to their policy blog and podcast, you can sign up for CMA Alerts via email. The latest alerts are included below:
Health Law Advocates is a Massachusetts-based public interest law firm whose mission is to provide pro bono legal representation to low-income residents experiencing difficulty accessing or paying for needed medical services. From their site you can find out about current litigation efforts, participate in their pro bono legal network, and sign up for their newsletter.
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues, providing policy analysis, journalism, and communication for the general public. Kaiser Health News includes a morning briefing and updates via email or RSS feed as well as an active social media presence. Their most recent posts are included here: