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CMS Discarding Unanswered FOIA Requests

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS"), like other federal agencies, generally has 20 days (plus a 10 day extension) to respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").  However, CMS responses seem to take quite a bit longer.

Last week, I received a response to a FOIA request that I filed with CMS in March of 2010.  That's right: 2010.  In its response, CMS explained that when it is busy, it utilizes a "first-in, first-out" approach when responding to requests.

The response then indicated that if I still wanted the information, I had to sign a document that was enclosed and return it to CMS within 5 working days of the date on the letter.  (I actually received the response from CMS on the 5th working day after the date of the letter.)  If CMS does not receive this document within the 5 day period, CMS will assume that I am no longer interested in receiving the requested information and will administratively close the case.

The truth is that I am no longer interested in receiving the documents that I had requested from CMS.  That ship has sailed.  However, I may respond just to see how long it will ultimately take to obtain the documents.

In short, anyone looking to obtain information from CMS from a FOIA request will be waiting a long time.  Other avenues of pursuing information should be utilized as you most certainly won't be getting your information in the allotted time and possibly not even within the same year you request it.

Categories: Hospitals, Physicians, Regulatory


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Congratulations to the attorneys of the Health Care practice group at Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC for their inclusion in the Best Lawyers in America 2020 edition. Firm-wide, 42 lawyers were listed. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation and as lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Health Care practice group members listed in Best Lawyers are as follows:

To see the full list of Foster Swift attorneys listed in Best Lawyers 2020, click here.