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Introduction to State Health Policy

A Workshop for New State Legislators

The purpose of this workshop was to provide State legislators or others assuming leadership responsibility for health care issues with information that could help them make more informed decisions. The workshop also helped participants learn to critically assess information, develop a process for making informed health policy decisions, and gain insight as to how other States have developed effective health care policies and programs throughout the country. It was held in Dallas, Texas, March 19-21, 1999.

About the Workshop Sponsor.


In recent years, important changes have taken place within this country's health care system. They include:

  • The rapid enrollment of a significant portion of the Nation's population into managed care.
  • Major restructuring of health care delivery systems within many States and communities
  • Growing recognition of the importance of health care quality issues.

Coupled with sociodemographic trends such as the aging of the population and the increase in numbers of uninsured, these changes have generated significant attention from the public, the media, and public policymakers at the Federal, State, and local levels.

State legislators continue to play a critical role both in shaping the important changes in the health care system and in responding to the challenges and opportunities that they present for public policymaking. However, to most effectively and appropriately carry out these important responsibilities, it is critical that State legislators:

  • Develop a sound understanding of the current issues and trends that exist within the health care system.
  • Be able to critically assess the implications of alternative approaches for addressing these issues.
  • Be aware of the insights and lessons learned that can be obtained from health services research and the experiences of other States and that can help them in their deliberations.


To address the needs of new State legislators, or those recently assuming leadership responsibility for health care issues, this workshop, which was designed collaboratively by the User Liaison Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Health Care Policy and Research and the National Conference of State Legislatures, offered a non-partisan forum for identifying the important health care issues for State legislators.

The workshop presented information on these issues, trends, and developments in today's health care environment to participants and sought to provide an overall understanding of State health policy topics while promoting a greater awareness as to how health services research can assist State legislators in carrying out their responsibilities.


The participants at this workshop were State legislators representing 37 States, the District of Columbia, and 3 territories. These elected officials were new to their State legislatures or to health committees within their legislatures. Of the legislators represented, 49 percent were Republicans, 48 percent were Democrats, and 3 percent were Independents.

Workshop Sessions


The User Liaison Program (ULP) disseminates health services research findings in easily understandable and usable formats through interactive workshops. Workshops and other support are planned to meet the needs of Federal, State, and local policymakers, and other health services research users, such as purchasers, administrators, and health plans.

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