Bullet: Example FOIA Request, regarding CMS NCD Data.
I submit five or six FOIA request to CMS each year, and people sometimes ask, how hard is it? I find it's not too hard, and the replies can be fairly fast (a couple months), but there's a huge range of success vs failure, speed vs delay. I have one FOIA topic in the appeals process right now.
One tip I've learned, it's usually better to submit a FOIA request for MAC documents or email to the CMS FOIA office and let THEM deal with the MAC. Otherwise your request "direct-to-MAC" may fizzle or be brushed off. (Voice of experience). CMS has dedicated FOIA staff, and logs the FOIA request and tracks it diligently. MACs may have hit or miss performance.
Recently CMS updated its dashboard of request letters it has accepted, for future NCDs. I wondered how old these letters were (6 months? 2 years?) and so I submitted a FOIA request from them. It's only been a few weeks, so I didn't expect a reply this fast, and I haven't gotten one. But I thought the example might be a "case study" for readers interested in some FOIA topic of their own.
October 15, 2023
CMS FOIA Officer
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Blvd
Baltimore MD 21244
Dear FOIA Officer:
Under the Freedom of Information Act, Subsection 552, I am requesting access to the following records:
a. Background: The CMS Coverage and Analysis Group is part of Center for Clinical Standards and Quality.
b. Background: For several years, CMS CAG has regularly updated a public list of “pending” future National Coverage Decisions. CMS updated the “NCD DASHBOARD” including a “WAIT LIST” on August 23, 2023.
d. Background: the WAIT LIST currently has 7 topics which are “Accepted by CMS” for potential NCDs This is a cut/paste from the link:
1) Diaphragm Pacemakers for Neuromuscular Disease (request for non-coverage)
2) Hepatitis C Screening
3) Infusion Pumps - Continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII)
4) Power Standing Systems
5) Pulmonary Pressure Sensor for Heart Failure Management
6) Screening for Cervical Cancer with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Testing
7) Ventilators for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
e. REQUEST: I request from CMS copies of the accepted “letters of request” for the NCDs above.
To determine my status for the purpose of fees, I am an individual seeking information for personal use and not commercial use. The documents have important public policy value understanding CMS’s current examples of acceptable request letters and durations of the “wait” process. The letters are normally, eventually, published if and when an NCD is opened in the future.
I am willing to pay fees to a maximum of $300. Potential contact staff include Dr Joseph Chin and colleagues in the Coverage and Analysis Group.
If you have any questions you may please telephone me at 1 323 839 8637. Distribution of your findings by PDF Email or other format is fine.
My email is email@example.com
Bruce Quinn MD