The Health Resources and Services Administration (“HRSA”) recently announced that hospitals have until March 23, 2023, to object to the release of certain data related to COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund (“PRF”) high-impact payments. Although the scope of the release is limited, hospitals that do not respond by the deadline will be considered to have no objection to the release of the data. A copy of the HRSA notice is available here.
HRSA received a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to the COVID-19 PRF high-impact payments. The request is for information disclosed by hospitals that did not receive payments in the first round of distributions under the COVID-19 PRF High-Impact payments. The first round of payments was for hospitals that had more than 100 COVID-19 admissions between January 1, 2020, and April 10, 2020. So, the hospitals whose data could be disclosed are those that had fewer than 100 admissions over that time period.
HRSA believes that these hospitals might object to the disclosure of two data elements:
- The number of COVID-19 admissions between January 1, 2020, and April 10, 2020; and
- The number of intensive care unit hospital beds for each facility (and the facility’s CMS Certification Number (“CCN”)).
HRSA will directly contact hospitals for which it has contact information, but it is also providing a general notice in the Federal Register. Hospitals whose data would be released can submit a comment to HRSA by March 23, 2023, if they would object to the release. Objecting does not guarantee that the hospital’s information will not be released; however, a hospital that does not respond to the notice will be considered to have no objection to the disclosure of its information.
HRSA requested the following information from commenters:
(1) Do you customarily keep the requested information private or closely held? What steps have you taken to protect the confidentiality of the requested data, and to whom has it been disclosed?
(2) What facts support your belief that this information is commercial or financial in nature?
(3) Did the government provide you with an express or implied assurance of confidentiality when you shared the information with the government? If so, please explain.
(4) Were there express or implied indications at the time the information was submitted that the government would publicly disclose the information? If so, please explain.
(5) How would disclosure of this information harm an interest protected by Exemption 4 (such as by causing foreseeable harm to your economic or business interests)?
If you believe that your hospital’s data would be disclosed under this request and object to that disclosure, it is important to respond to HRSA’s request for comments by the March 23, 2023 deadline.