Role of State Attorneys General in Health Policy

Despite all of the attention paid to the various stakeholders in health and health care policy debates, the 50 state attorneys general are an often unrecognized political force. In this commentary, two grantees from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Public Health Law Research program explore the powerful role that the attorneys general play in policy debates.

The authors argue that over the past two decades, state attorneys generals have increasingly supported health and health care through litigation, investigative activities and policy reform work. The position which state attorneys general occupy at the crossroads of the state’s legislative, executive, and judicial branches is unique, providing them with opportunities to advance health policy through both formal and informal powers. One primary example of their role is the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement against the tobacco industry.

Against this backdrop, the authors turn their attention to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the role that the attorneys general will play as reform moves out of the legislative arena.