Callling HHS to account for banning reporters from public forums

Last week we reported that the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services banned reporters from public meetings on Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits. This week we’ve taken action by filing a Freedom of Information Act request with HHS.

The Essential Health Benefits package is perhaps one of the more controversial parts of Obamacare. It lists those medical services that must be provided free of charge to beneficiaries on most health plans. If the Administration defines the list of Essential Health Benefits too broadly, insurance premium costs will rise. But if it is defined too narrowly, the Administration risks angering its left-wing liberal base.

So, with the presidential election around the corner, the Obama Administration has been doing whatever it can to diffuse this potential political bomb. For instance the Administration has bypassed normal regulatory cost checks by not issuing an official rule but instead issuing a mere “pre-rule bulletin.” They also failed to define what the Essential Health Benefits are and instead punted it to the states to decide based on current state law.

Now it appears that the media not only was not properly informed of the public meetings for the Essential Health Benefits (called “listening sessions”) but those who did find out about it were turned away! This is unacceptable.

We want to know what was said in these meetings that the Administration appears to have wanted to prevent the public from knowing.

In our FOIA request we asked HHS to,

Please provide copies of any records that exist in any of the following categories and that were created on or after August 1, 2011 and that disclose:

1. All advertisements and dates of such advertisements regarding these meetings;
2. All communications with stakeholders regarding these meetings;
3. All materials distributed at the meetings;
4. All written comments received in conjunction with the meetings;
5. All sign in sheets at the meetings;
6. All video or audio recordings of the meetings;
7. All notes taken by HHS Officials of comments made at these meetings; and
8. All costs associated with the administration and production of these meetings.

We’ll let you know how HHS responds.