International & Public Affairs Research Guide: Find Health Policy Legislation

This research guide identifies some of the major databases and library services that support research at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University.

Evaluation of Health Care

Evaluation of legislation within the government can take place in a number of agencies, for a variety of reasons. Within the agency most concerned with the legislation, there may be follow-up studies, additional research, Congressional testimony, etc. The agency web page is a good place to start -- look for terms like testimony, policy, research, evaluations, communications to Congress, etc. 

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

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

    Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides Congress with objective, timely, nonpartisan analysis needed for economic and budget decisions and with the information and estimates required for the Congressional budget process. 

  • Government Accountability Office (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. There are options to look at Reports and Testimony by date, topic and agency.

Nonprofit research centers are major players in the ongoing development of health care policy, at both the federal and state levels. Some of the prominent centers are:

  • Alliance for Health Reform: Offers an exhaustive list of health care policy experts and their affiliations, along with phone numbers and Web addresses.
  • Center for Health and Public Policy Studies: Provides data and organizes convenings that support public policies to develop an affordable, high-quality health care system.
  • The Commonwealth Fund: A philanthropic foundation established in 1918 by Anna M. Harkness with the broad charge to enhance the common good. The fund's international program in health policy seeks to build a network of policy-oriented health care researchers whose multinational experience and outlook stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries.
  • Families USA: A good source for monitoring state health care activity, this site posts information about state programs and laws, and provides links to local consumer groups.
  • Kaiser Family Foundation: The focus is on research and publication in its Health Policy program, whose major initiatives and focus areas include the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the Medicare Policy Project, the Changing Health Care Marketplace Project, minority health, HIV, and women's health policy.
  • Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.: Offers useful data and analysis on Medicaid demonstration programs, managed care, mental health parity, rural health care, long-term care, substance abuse, and the state-based Children's Health Insurance Program.
  • National Academy for State Health Policy: A non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to excellence in state health policy and practice. Conducts policy analysis, provides training, and more.
  • National Health Policy Forum (NHPF): A bipartisan education and information exchange program primarily serving federal legislative and executive agency staff working in health care and related areas. Features information dissemination and discussion forum.
  • Rand: A nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis.
  • Urban Institute: The Urban Institute is a nonprofit policy research organization in Washington, D.C. This page provides access to a number of online health-related press releases, periodicals, and publications.


  • Thomas - A congressional source for current bills and other legislative activities. Superseded by
  • - is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public.
  • ProQuest Congressional (access restricted to Columbia affiliates) - Provides full text for many titles, generally from the early 1990's to the present. Includes bills, laws, legislative histories, committee prints, House and Senate documents and reports, the Congressional Record, Code of Federal Regulations, and Federal Register.

Health Policy

  • Department of Health and Human Services - The federal department responsible for protecting the health and well-being of Americans. The Laws & Regulations page links to the major laws and regulations which direct health care in the U.S
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - 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. 
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration - The Federal agency charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.
  • National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare - The final proposal, also known as the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Reform Proposal, was released on March 16, 1999. The web site contains the full text of the proposal, estimates of the costs, transcripts of the commission meetings, and other Medicare documents.

Specific Resources for this topic

  • Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (access restricted to Columbia affiliates)
  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac (access restricted to Columbia affiliates)
  • Health Affairs: Health care policy journal, featuring articles and papers submitted by various health care policy experts.
  • Health Care Financing Review: Scholarly journal from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It was published from 1979 to 2009, and then superseded by Medicare & Medicaid Research Review from 2011 to 2014. 
  • LexisNexis Academic (access restricted to Columbia affiliates) : A source of full text newspapers and news magazines; useful for reporting and public debate of issues.
  • National Journal Group's Policy Central (access restricted to Columbia affiliates):  It provides online access to the full text of the National Journal, as well as other tools to assist in identifying and tracking health legislation. National Journal is more policy-oriented than CQ and is useful for identifying the major players and issues surrounding legislation.
  • Social Work Abstracts (access restricted to Columbia affiliates) : Index to journal literature in the field of social work. It can be supplemented by journal literature searches in related indexes, such as ERIC, PsycInfo, Social Services Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, etc.