Monday, October 17, 2011

More Transparency From Your Government

In a story little reported around the rest of the country, the KC Star follows up on a story that it has itself become involved in, with the shut down of public access to a medical database by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Today, the paper reports that Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee is demanding an explanation for why HHS now denies full access for anyone to a national database tracking malpractice and disciplinary cases among doctors saying: "More transparency serves the public interest."  Grassley has in fact called for a briefing from HHS as to why such information is no longer available to journalists, researchers, and the public in general. 

Of course the KC Star has every reason to continue to follow this story, since it was one of its investigative reporting efforts that led to the current policy.  The Star's involvement in fact dates back to September, when it "reported finding 21 doctors in the two states who had 10 or more payouts" ... (It tracked cases in Missouri and Kansas for malpractice) ... "but had not been disciplined".  By putting these records (which have names removed) together with court records it obtained separately, the Star was able through its efforts, to discover the names of one of these doctors.

Both universities and other journalism organizations have since called for full access to this information, but have been denied that which was previously available by HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sibelius.  Instead, her agency now says that it might agree to release specific data, but retains the option to deny any such a request made.

“Shutting down public access to the data bank undermines the critical mission of identifying inefficiencies within our health care system,” Senator Grassley is quoted as saying in the story.

And with barely the stroke of a pen, the same federal government that wishes to take control of health care in this county once and for all believes that patients, researchers, or the media do not have the right to know whether there are incompetent doctors out there who are not being disciplined by their peers in the medical profession.  And in yet another example of the 'transparency' touted by the Administration when it entered office, it once denies consumers of vital information that might help them to make better choices in medical care for themselves. 

"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." 
 (quoted from:


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