Tag Archives: FOIA

In FOIA decision, Supreme Court rules that food stamp data is confidential

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.

In a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday, justices ruled that data on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is confidential.

The ruling is the latest in a case brought eight years ago by the Argus Leader, a newspaper in South Dakota, asserting the public’s right to know how much taxpayer money goes to grocers and other retailers who participate in the program. Continue reading

Media access to public records – Our right to know, #AHCJ19

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Health Journalism 2019 kicked off in Baltimore with an extremely useful two-hour workshop on public records.

The bottom line: There’s a lot of information out there. We as journalists have a right to an awful lot of it.

And we can get it (sometimes) if we ask properly, follow up persistently – and are willing to get just a wee bit pushy about it if that’s what it takes. Continue reading

Conference panelists invite your input on their sessions

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.

Health Journalism 2019 is coming up quickly – the fun and learning kicks off on May 2 with workshop-style sessions.

This year, we have several panelists who are soliciting input from our members and attendees ahead of the conference. This is your chance to get your needs addressed by the experts. 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

Access denied? Look for other, sometimes less traditional, ways to find sources #FOIAFriday #AHCJ16

Jaclyn Cosgrove

About Jaclyn Cosgrove

Jaclyn Cosgrove is the health reporter at The Oklahoman. She is attending Health Journalism 2017 on an AHCJ Rural Health Journalism fellowship, which is supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Jaclyn has spent the past four years focusing much of her reporting on mental illness and addiction. She was a 2015-16 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health fellow. Through the fellowship, Jaclyn completed a yearlong project, "Epidemic Ignored," focused on Oklahoma's fractured, underfunded mental health system. Beyond mental health reporting, Jaclyn has also written about health disparities, rural health and public policy. Jaclyn lives in Oklahoma City with her wife, Tiffany.

HHS-press-conferenceA 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

Journalists, FOIA and the law: When should reporters sue?

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

The job of a journalist is to seek the truth and report it. To provide comprehensive and fair accounts of issues. This mantra is written into the codes of ethics of journalism organizations worldwide.

Fred Schulte

However, when government officials throw up roadblocks, refuse to answer basic questions, and rely on excuses to thwart legitimate investigations into policy, presenting the whole truth to the public is nearly impossible. When requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act are ignored, or responses delayed indefinitely, then it may be time to start filing legal challenges.

Such was the case with the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation into Medicare Advantage plans. Reporters tried for months to speak on the record with officials at CMS about the program’s financial probes and other oversight issues. CPI eventually filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get supporting documentation.

When CMS failed to respond after a year, CPI sued. Is this the only way to get government and other public organizations to open up their records? According to this tip sheet from Fred Schulte, it depends.