Health Care Law and Legal Definition

The federal and state governments are the largest payors of health care services in the United States. The largest federal programs are Medicare and Medicaid. It has often been said that Medicare is the second largest segment of the federal budget, second only to Social Security payments. Federal payment policies often determine how and what health care services are provided. Preserving public health is a primary duty of the state. Health regulations and laws are therefore almost all state based. Many states delegate authority to subordinate govermental agencies such as boards of health.

Federal health law focuses on the activity of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It administers a wide variety of agencies and programs, like providing financial assistance to needy individuals; conducting medical and scientific research; providing health care and advocacy services; and enforcing laws and regulations related to human services. The HHS is responsible for overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. Their goal is to ensure that elderly and needy individuals receive proper medical care. Many other laws adminstered by other agencies deal with health issues. For example, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work on issues such as:

  • Birth Defects
  • Disabilities
  • Diseases & Conditions
  • Emergency Preparedness & Response
  • Environmental Health
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Health Promotion
  • Injury and Violence
  • Travelers' Health
  • Vaccines & Immunizations
  • Workplace Safety & Health

Some health agencies and programs include:

  • Administration for Children and Families
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Frederick Cancer Research & Development Center(NCI/FCRDC)
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Center for Health Statistics
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • National Library of Medicine (NLM)
  • National Toxicology Program
  • NLM Health Services/Technology Assessment Text
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP)
  • Office of Environment, Safety, and Health (Department of Energy)
  • Office of Human Radiation Experiments (Dept. of Energy)
  • Social Security Administration
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)