Letter to Xavier Becerra
AHCJ is calling on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to make himself available for questioning by reporters.
In a letter to Becerra sent Friday, the association urges regular, open press briefings similar to those held by his predecessor.
In his seven months in office, the leader of one of the largest federal departments has kept a low profile, even though the agencies he oversees, which include the CDC, the FDA, the NIH, and Medicare, make decisions affecting the lives of virtually all Americans.
“It’s time for Secretary Becerra to come out of hiding,” said AHCJ President Felice J. Freyer, who signed the letter along with fellow board members Sabriya Rice and Joyce Frieden. “The public deserves to hear from the cabinet member responsible for the programs and policies that affect our health.”
Although Becerra holds press conferences on limited topics when he travels, they are not live-streamed or open to reporters outside of the regions he visits. And he has yet to hold an open-ended press conference, at which reporters can ask him about a variety of topics.
If you’re having problems getting information from a federal health agency, don’t give up: You might have recourse within the government.
The new assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Sarah Lovenheim, has recently reaffirmed an appeals process that AHCJ negotiated several years ago.
It works like this: If you can’t get what you need at the agency level, appeal to the HHS deputy secretary who oversees media affairs for that agency. (Details on how to do this are below.)
In a conversation with Sabriya Rice, vice chair of the Right to Know Committee, and me, Lovenheim agreed that reporters should get in touch with the deputy secretaries if they need help. Continue reading
AHCJ has called on President Biden to honor Independence Day by turning his attention to improving government transparency, “a cornerstone of democracy.”
In a letter sent Tuesday, AHCJ President Ivan Oransky points out that “health care reporters, especially, must have access to complete and accurate facts because what we write influences life-and-death choices that people make.”
The statement praises Biden’s cordial relationship with the media and open coronavirus briefings earlier this year but adds: “Our members tell us that getting information from the federal government remains one of their biggest challenges.” Continue reading
A federal appeals court in Boston has upheld the right of a hospital employee to speak to the media, in a case likely to ripple across the private sector and make it harder for employers to issue blanket gag orders.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, ordered a Maine hospital last month to repudiate a rule that barred employees from answering inquiries from the media or providing information without the “direct involvement” of the Community Relations Department. It also ordered the hospital to reinstate an employee who was fired after writing a letter to the local newspaper that described staff turnover and morale problems. Continue reading
A spokesman for President Biden’s administration has pledged that any legitimate reporter who signs up with the White House press office will be invited to briefings and provided with embargoed background materials.
The promise came after AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee protested the practice of holding small group briefings with select reporters.
The press official denied that there had been any attempt to exclude people and objected to characterizing the press briefings as “closed.” Instead, he said, the White House press staff is working on updating its mailing lists. Continue reading