Health Policy Tracking Service Provides Information on State Health Policy Legislation

Providing information on state health policy legislation through the Health Policy Tracking Service

The Health Policy Tracking Service, which was started by the National Conference of State Legislatures, provides information on important developments in state legislation, policies and programs affecting health care, primarily through Web-based reports and databases. Its primary audience is state legislators and their staffs.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) was a long-term supporter of the tracking service. (See Program Results for grant ID# 038868 for a report on RWJF's support from 1997–2002.)

From July 2003 through April 2005, RWJF grant ID# 048709 was made so that the tracking service would provide focused reports in the areas of women's health; public health preparedness; insurance reform; and tobacco-use prevention, control and restrictions. Yet, in the National Conference of State Legislatures' reports to RWJF, it is clear that the Health Policy Tracking Service did not cover these subjects. Instead, it continued to provide its regular publications.

In spite of this, RWJF continued to support these regular publications through July 2007. Part of this support funded access to the tracking service for RWJF program officers and national program office staff. The grants also subsidized subscription rates for small nonprofit organizations.

During the course of the RWJF grants, the Health Policy Tracking Service changed ownership twice-transitioning from a nonprofit organization to a for-profit company. The National Conference of State Legislatures sold the tracking service to NetScan iPublishing, a for-profit company in Falls Church, Va., on January 1, 2004. The project director moved to NetScan with the project. Then, in January 2005, Thomson Reuters, a for-profit company, in New York City, purchased NetScan, including the tracking service. The company integrated NetScan into its existing operations.

Key Results: In reports to RWJF, project directors from the three entities owning the Health Policy Tracking Service stated that it produced the following reports:

  • About 1,500 primarily Web-based reports, including:
    • About 868 biweekly "Snapshot" reports, covering trends and recent actions in state legislation.
    • About 59 quarterly issue briefs providing expanded analysis on "hot topics" in health care policy.
    • About 66 biweekly reports on state budget actions that affect health care services.
    • About 500 daily reports on Medicaid.
  • A database called "Legislation to Watch," with summaries of some 40,000-plus health care bills introduced in each session of the state legislatures.

In addition, about 13 RWJF program officers and staff from about 23 national program offices accessed the Health Policy Tracking Service.

Funding: RWJF supported this project through four grants totaling $592,085 to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington; NetScan iPublishing in Falls Church, Va.; and Thomson Reuters in New York. Other funders included the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Treatment as well as the California Health Care Foundation.

Afterward: After the last grant ended, RWJF opted not to continue paying for access to the Health Policy Tracking Service because its program officers and national program office staff were no longer using the service enough to justify continued funding.

Thomson Reuters has continued to sell subscriptions to the Health Policy Tracking Service through its Westlaw online database (as of May 2009).