Transparency Is Always A Good Idea

Yesterday The Epoch Times reported that Judge Carl Nichols with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Trump administration can compel hospitals and insurers to publish negotiated costs for health care services that are normally kept secret from patients. This is wonderful news for patients in hospitals although I suspect that the medical community is not happy with the decision.

The article reports:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced a rule in November 2019 that defined “standard charges,” laid out the publication requirements for hospitals and insurers, and the department’s enforcement plans.

At the time, hospital and insurer organizations and advocacy groups objected to the agency’s proposals, disputing that the Trump administration has the authority to require the disclosures, which they believe are trade secrets. The hospitals also disputed that the policy would benefit consumers and lead to lower costs, countering that compliance would instead be too burdensome and “get in the way” of providing services for patients.

The finalization of the rule, which goes into effect January 2021, prompted the American Hospital Association (AHA) to sue, arguing that the White House didn’t have the authority to make the directive, had violated the First Amendment in its creation, and had acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner.

The article concludes:

Trump’s executive order on improving transparency on health care prices and quality required the HHS secretary to propose a regulation to publicly post standard charge information “in an easy-to-understand, consumer-friendly, and machine-readable format using consensus-based data standards that will meaningfully inform patients’ decision making and allow patients to compare prices across hospitals.”

It also requires hospitals to regularly update the posted information.

David Mitchell, the founder of advocacy group Patients For Affordable Drugs, said in a statement to The Epoch Times in response to the ruling that he thinks “we have to get rid of our system in which prices are secret and hidden from those who must pay them.”

This is good news for the people who pay for hospital care.

This Case Is Still Relevant

On Tuesday The Epoch Times posted an article about the Awan scandal. In case you have forgotten, various members and friends of the Awan family were IT aides to more than 40 Democratic members of key national security and foreign policy committees in the House of Representatives. Their positions gave the aides access to all of the members’ digital communications and documents.

The article reminds us:

With the exception of Imran Awan, all of the Awan network members lost their access to the House IT network in February 2017, as a result of a report by the top House administrative officials that said the aides “are an ongoing and serious risk to the House of Representatives, possibly threatening the integrity of our information systems and thereby members’ capacity to serve constituents.”

Imran Awan was kept on the House payroll by then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) until he was arrested by federal agents while trying to leave the United States.

Awan was subsequently charged with bank fraud in connection with a loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union.

The article reports the current activities on the case:

An apparently frustrated federal judge ordered attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to appear Jan. 15 for a “snap” hearing to explain why the government isn’t producing documents sought by Judicial Watch concerning former Democratic information technology aide Imran Awan.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amit Mehta’s unusual order followed a sealed submission by DOJ attorneys Jan. 10 in the case prompted by the nonprofit government watchdog’s November 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Such hastily convened hearings are extremely unusual in a federal judicial system so jammed that months can pass before cases are litigated in courtrooms.

“In a hearing last month, U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta expressed frustration and ordered the Justice Department to explain its failure to produce records by January 10 and to provide Judicial Watch some details about the delay,” Judicial Watch said in a statement Jan. 14 about the snap hearing.

“Instead, the Justice Department made its filing under seal and has yet to provide Judicial Watch with any details about its failure to produce records as promised to the court,” Judicial Watch said.

Federal attorneys previously said in December 2019 that they were unable to provide the documents sought in the Judicial Watch FOIA requests because they include materials from a “related sealed criminal matter.”

Thank God for Judicial Watch.

The article concludes:

The Awan scandal was first exposed by Daily Caller investigative journalist Luke Rosiak, who subsequently published a book on his findings, titled “Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats.”

None of the Awan network members were reportedly required to undergo security background checks prior to being employed on congressional staffs.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the nonprofit’s statement that “the DOJ’s handling of the Awan brothers case has long been an issue of concern and now we are expected to believe some secret investigation prevents the public from knowing the full truth about this scandal. We are skeptical.”

Just another example of inexplicable actions by the Justice Department.

The Wheels Of Justice Turn Slowly

Fox News is reporting today that Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must provide the names of specific employees involved in targeting Tea Party groups. The Judge has also ruled that IRS the must provide information about which groups were targeted and why, along with a strategy to make sure such targeting doesn’t happen again. This is one of the few common sense rulings in this case. This might also be the pathway to having employees of the IRS reveal who ordered the targeting.

The article reports:

The targeting scandal drew much attention in 2013 when the IRS, headed at the time by Lois Lerner, admitted it was applying extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for nonprofit status.

“That was wrong,” Lerner said at the time in the press. “That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. … The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

But director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch Chris Farrell, whose organization is also involved in litigation with the IRS on this issue, told Fox News that the IRS owes litigants “real accountability.”

This is the equivalent of apologizing for robbing a bank, refusing to give back the money, and not going to jail. The apology is worth nothing.

The article concludes:

Walton ordered the IRS to search for further records, according to The Washington Times, in other agency databases for the time period spanning 2009 to March 27, 2015.

“Furthermore, to the extent that the plaintiffs have already received information produced by the government indicating that the plaintiffs were allegedly discriminated against, and that information provides a basis to believe that other such documents exist, the government must search all relevant sources to ensure that all documents responsive to the document request is identified and produced,” the judge wrote in his order.

Walton gave the IRS until Oct. 16 to finish the search.

This is a serious move toward draining the swamp.