Source: AHCJ member survey, 2016
Health journalists seeking information from government agencies often encounter obstacles, especially at the federal level, according to AHCJ’s recent survey. The biggest roadblocks involve delays, bureaucracy, scripted replies, and barriers to interviews, survey respondents said.
Three-quarters said it is difficult to get the information they need from the federal government, and two-thirds reported difficulty getting adequate responses from state government. Continue reading
A Freedom of Information request that takes weeks, if not months, to receive.
Repeatedly getting “No comment” from anyone you speak to.
Encountering a spokesperson who has no interest in building a relationship but, instead, serves as a barrier.
These issues – and how to address them – were discussed at the “Access Denied: How to get the story anyway” panel Thursday at Health Journalism 2016.
Veteran journalists shared how to best navigate the many challenges that journalists face. Continue reading
A year ago, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee brokered an appeals process with the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services media office for reporters facing unreasonable delays or inadequate responses from agency public information officers.
I’m happy to report that we’ve had a number of successes since then in clearing information logjams for individual reporters and policing violations of HHS’s media policy. But a year’s experience with this process has also made us wiser about what we need from AHCJ members to be effective. Continue reading
Pia Christensen/AHCJJan Emerson-Shea, vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, guides journalists in how to work with hospitals and patient privacy laws at Health Journalism 2015.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted nearly 20 years ago to make reporters gnash their teeth. Not quite, presenters at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif., told their audience.
HIPAA, as it was birthed into law in 1996, was intended to make it easier for people to keep their health insurance when they change jobs. The law set standards for the electronic exchange of patient information, including protecting the privacy of such records. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the Privacy Rule to implement that aspect of the law, and its Office of Civil Rights is in charge of enforcing it.
The Privacy Rule, which went into effect in April 2003, has made it more difficult for reporters to get information about individuals’ health care, such as the names and condition of accident victims. Hospital employees and reporters not well informed about the law make things even harder.
It is important to remember some key points about HIPAA and other patient privacy laws, presenters said: Continue reading
In early February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advertised a telephone question-and-answer session intended for “non-press associated individuals.” Essentially anyone could listen in – except the members of the media. Crazy, right?
But when a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists asked CMS to change the wording of the February invitation, the agency’s press office declined.
Learning of this, Irene Wielawski, chair of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, immediately contacted Mark Weber, a high-ranking public affairs official at HHS with whom the committee speaks regularly. Weber took action, and within days, a new invitation went out specifying that the call was open to all interested “people,” with no restrictions on the media.
A small victory – but a swift one, and an example of how a sustained push for government transparency can make a difference. Continue reading