HHS Completely Failed to Follow the Law and Respond to Our FOIA Requests – We Just Sued!

The Trump-Pence Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has utterly failed to follow the law and respond to one of the many FOIA requests we’ve filed against this secretive, shady Administration. You’re wondering, “What does HHS have to hide?” Well, we’re worried it’s quite a lot. So we just sued to find out!

Part I: A FOIA Request

In January HHS announced the creation of a new office that would prioritize protecting hospitals, doctors, and others who want to use their religious beliefs to deny patients care. And one day after the announcement of this new office, HHS proposed a broad and harmful rule attempting to carve out new ways for individuals and entities to discriminate and refuse to provide patients care.

HHS had the nerve to try and justify this by asserting that they had received an increase in complaints since Trump was elected from health care providers who want to use their religious beliefs to discriminate. But when the proposed rule was released it showed that HHS had received a total of 10 complaints over a period of eight years.

So we called their bluff.

We, along with our partners at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a federal law that gives each of us the right to access public records created by our government. We wanted to find out exactly what these complaints said.

Plus the Office for Civil Rights is supposed to be protecting patients from discrimination so that all of us can get the care we need. But, we don’t think they are doing that. So our FOIA also sought to find out whether HHS is enforcing all civil rights protections, like the Health Care Rights Law, to the fullest extent as they are required to do by law.
But the story doesn’t end there . . . .

Part II: A FOIA Request Addendum

In March, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights claimed that they had received a huge influx of complaints. Well, we thought, “that’s weird” since before they said they only had 10. So we filed an addendum to our FOIA request asking for copies of these complaints in order to evaluate the circumstances around the reported increase as well as to increase transparency around the creation of this new division.

Well HHS has yet to turn over a single page. If they can’t follow this law, why should we trust them to enforce the Health Care Rights Law and other civil rights protections? We can’t. And to be honest, no one really knows what the Department is up to and how they are ensuring that patients are put first. They won’t tell us. And without that information, patients and their advocates (like NWLC!) can’t hold the Department accountable and push them to improve.

Part III: We Sue!  

And friends, that’s why we just sued. We’re going to hold HHS accountable because we all deserve to know just how HHS is (or isn’t) protecting our rights. We won’t let them get away with this. We’re going to do everything we can to ensure HHS does what it’s supposed to, which is to put patients first. And when we know exactly what they are up to we’ll make sure you’re in the know too!