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Legal Resources for Health

Health care policy includes all of the actions that the government takes to influence the provision of health care (Kraft & Furlong, 2010).

Statues or laws are enacted by legislatures. Federal statues may be published in two formats: (1) public and private laws, and (2) codified law.

There are a number of resources for finding both public and private laws, and codified laws.

Slip Laws

Newly enacted laws are first published as slip laws. There are two free online sources for information about slip laws.

GPO’s Federal Digital System, select Browse>Public and Private Laws (Figure 1).

Laws are arranged by the congressional session. For example: 114th Congress (2015 - 2016)

Congress.gov, search in this format if using public law citation: PL113-80, select “All Legislation” if not in current Congress (Figure 2).

United States Code

The United States Code is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. It is prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the United States House of Representatives.

Popular Name Tool, allows you to search or browse the United States Code Table of Acts Cited by Popular Name. For example, you can search for the Patriot Act. The Legal Information Institute (LLI) also maintains a Popular Name Tool.

How do I Find Statutes?

By citation

If you know the citation of a statute e.g. 42 U.S.C. § 18001, you can search by the citation. This format consists of the title number (42), the abbreviated name of the code (U.S.C.), and the section number (18001). Also, and to make it even more confusing the citation 42 U.S.C. § 18001 actual refers to U.S. Code>Title 42>Chapter 157>Subchapter18001. This will be important to remember if you are browsing the US Code.

By Name

For example: the Patriot Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.

By Topic

For example: health coverage, medical records, or employee benefits.

Title 42 of the United States Code

Title 42 of the United States Code is the United States Code dealing with public health, social welfare, and civil rights.

ILL maintains a Health Law Overview page, which collects information about health care laws. You can also use the U.S. Code Toolbox to set up a RSS feed alert for Title 42.


Kraft, M. E., & Furlong, S. R. (2010). Public policy : politics, analysis, and alternatives (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.