Category Archives: Right to know

Ruling takes one step closer in releasing SNAP data

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The public’s right to information was bolstered by a federal judge’s decision that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should release data about how much taxpayers pay to retailers through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by Argus Leader Media in South Dakota, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the “annual sales amounts of every business in the nation that participates in SNAP. USDA refused to release the data, and the paper filed suit in 2011.” Continue reading

AHCJ objects to FDA’s ‘close-hold embargoes,’ requests explanation

Felice J. Freyer

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's treasurer and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

Image by Logan Campbell via flickr.

AHCJ is protesting the Food and Drug Administration’s recent restrictive practices in handling news embargoes and has asked the agency for clarification of its policies.

In an Oct. 11 letter to Jason Young, the FDA’s acting assistant commissioner for media affairs, AHCJ President Karl Stark raised strong objections to the practice of providing embargoed information on the condition that reporters refrain from seeking outside comment until the embargo lifts. Continue reading

Access – or lack of access – to health information is making news

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

key-in-lock-showing-forbidden-information-graphicstockSeveral stories about access to public information have caught my eye in the past week. Whether it involves public health data from Florida, evidence in a federal criminal case or embargoes and favored access at a federal agency, it’s clear that journalists are facing obstacles in ensuring the public’s access to information.

In Rhode Island, a judge ruled in favor of a journalist seeking evidence presented in the trial of a doctor now “serving four life sentences for his role in operating a pain management clinic like a ‘pill mill.'” The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had refused to release the records since journalist Phil Eil requested them after the trial ended in 2011. Continue reading

FOIA lawsuit uncovers audits showing 35 health plans overbilled Medicare Advantage

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Fred Schulte

A federal review of health insurers operating Medicare Advantage plans shows that 35 health plans overbilled the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Center for Public Integrity reported on August 29.

Fred Schulte, a CPI senior reporter, said the center obtained 37 MA plan audits through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The documents indicated that 35 of those health plans were overpaid in 2007. The typical overpayment was several hundred thousand dollars.

“Among the insurers charging the government too much: five Humana, Inc. health plans, three UnitedHealth Care Group plans and four Wellpoint, Inc. plans,” Schulte wrote. None of the plans would comment for Schulte’s article. Continue reading

AHCJ webcast to examine drug prices, other cost challenges

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo" Phillip Bradshaw via Flickr

Photo” Phillip Bradshaw via Flickr

Mylan’s price hike for its EpiPen allergy medication fueled an Internet storm this week, with consumers and U.S. legislators expressing outrage over its decision to raise the price about 400% since 2007 to as much as $500 or more. The backlash appeared tied in part to timing as U.S. children head back to school, with parents of those needing EpiPens to treat allergic reactions coming to grips with the hefty price tag.

The incident brought echoes of another drug price hike – the 2015 increase by Turing Pharmaceutical’s malaria and HIV medicine Darapim, another move that brought scrutiny by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the company’s chief executive officer. Continue reading