While most public health practice is done by state and local agencies, the
federal government provides most of the financial support and much of the
expertise that defines the state programs. In some areas, such as
environmental and occupational health, the federal government has a primary
regulatory role. The federal government operates many health care facilities
and provides other services that affect the public health.
The federal government provides many services through private contractors.
There is an extensive body of federal law on the rights and duties of
contractors, which includes health and public health practitioner and facilities
which participate in federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Contract
disputes are generally handled by the court of claims system.
The federal government is immune from damage claims for its actions unless it
waives that immunity through the Federal Tort Claims Act or other legislation.
These laws waiving immunity provide the only mechanism for suing the federal
government for tort damages, and, as discussed later, some types of damages,
such as defamation, cannot be recovered against the federal government.