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Health Care Legal Research: Statutes and Regulations

This guide is designed to assist students in completing their research paper in Professor Suddarth's Health Care Reform class.

Step Three: Primary Resources

Through your research, you will come across references to both regulations and statutes that apply to your area of law. To get a better understanding of the controlling laws, a deeper look at the formation of the regulation or statute may be in order. Looking over proposed rules and bills--as well as the discussion of the agency or legislature during the enactment process--can give you valuable insight into the intent and meaning behind the law. Take some time to look over the comments received on a proposed rule to see what sides of the issue the agency considered and what participating stakeholders were worried about.

To fully research a regulatory scheme, you must complete the steps listed below. It is not enough to pull up the most recent regulations and cite to it. Much like a statute, the decisions of administrative bodies act like court cases, giving guidance on the interpretation and application of rules. Guidance documents and 

First Step: Find the Regulation

Second Step: Update the Regulation

Once you have located the applicable regulations, make sure that the version you have located is the most recent. You can use's advanced search feature to search for any changes to the Part and Section of the CFR your are investigating.

Third Step: Find Administrative Decisions and Documents

Agencies can do more than create rules. Depending on their organic statute, they may also adjudicate disputes, issue guidance documents, send out interpretive letters or decisions, or initiate enforcement proceedings against those who violate their rules. 

Fourth Step: Find Judicial Appeals

The appealability of an administrative decision is guided by the APA and a large amount of case law involving judicial deference to agency decisions. Commercial databases are a good way to follow the trail from regulation to agency decisions to appeals of those decisions. The organic statute that created the agency and granted its powers will also provide for judicial review of agency actions; these cases will often be styled as Agency (or Agency Head) vs. Individual (think Massachusetts v. EPA). Judicial deference to agency decisions is a large part of the study of administrative law; if you run into this legal area make sure you get some background on agency decision appeals before proceeding. 

Statutes and Regulations

There are multiple entry points into researching statutes and regulations, be sure to check all relevant points and abide by best practices for finding the appropriate source, verifying the record is up-to-date, etc., before proceeding. 

Legislative History

If the subject of your paper involves a statute, the text alone isn't going to be enough to work with. Many healthcare-related statutes are lengthy and difficult to understand, but you can get a better idea of the meaning and intent behind a statute by looking at the various drafts of the bill, committee meetings, and hearings associated with its adoption. Luckily, most large pieces of legislation have legislative histories collected by Hein or ProQuest, so you can find all of the information about the legislation in one place. If your particular piece of legislation has not been covered by one of these organizations, speak to a librarian about compiling this data on your own or finding other sources of legislative histories.