Free Press? Do not Want No Stinkin’ Free Press – Heart for Medicare and Medicaid Companies (CMS) Tries to Intimidate Fashionable Healthcare Journalist

Bear in mind the great ol’ days, when most US challenges to free speech or the free press in well being care got here from aggrieved company or educational managers?  Now authorities well being businesses have gotten into the act, by no means thoughts First Modification ensures of free speech and a free press.

CMS Tried to Intimidate a Journalist for Fashionable Healthcare

This story first appeared on the weblog of the Affiliation of Well being Care Journalists, and has now been summarized in just one media outlet, The Hill.  Per Felice Freyer, the Vice President of the AHCJ, Virgil Dickson, a reporter for Fashionable Healthcare, wrote a

Jan. 23 story concerning the abrupt resignation of Brian Neale, an official who oversaw Medicaid and helped transfer it in additional conservative course.

After offering statements from [director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Seema] Verma and Neale, Dickson quoted ‘trade insiders’ who stated the departure was prompted by ‘some type of disagreement between Verma and Neale that erupted previously few days.’ He additionally talked about that one supply stated Neale had been involved concerning the workload. 

That relatively bland report appeared to displease the administration of CMS.  Ms Freyer famous,

After the article appeared, Dickson obtained an electronic mail from Brett O’Donnell, a communications contractor working for CMS. O’Donnell known as studies of a disagreement or workload issues ‘false hypothesis’ and stated it was ‘irresponsible’ to say them with out extra particulars.

Dickson stood his floor, noting that the data got here from a number of, dependable sources. However he agreed to talk with Neale for clarification, and subsequently added Neale’s denial of a disagreement.

That was not sufficient for Mr O’Donnell:

The subsequent day, O’Donnell wrote to Dickson’s editor, Matthew Weinstock, asserting that the article was inaccurate and demanding that the references to workload and the disagreement be excised. O’Donnell’s electronic mail additionally said: ‘In need of totally correcting the piece we is not going to be capable of embody your outlet in additional press calls with CMS.’

The subsequent week,

 Virgil Dickson, Washington bureau chief for Fashionable Healthcare — believed the company was making good on its risk on Thursday when, he stated, his telephone went mute throughout a CMS press name and a girl’s voice instructed him he was not allowed to take part. An editor later confirmed with CMS officers that he had been banned from press names, Dickson stated.

The Context of the Intimidation

CMS is, after all, a authorities company, and so should heed the First Modification of the US Structure, a part of the Invoice of Rights,

Congress shall make no legislation … abridging the liberty of speech, or of the press

Nonetheless, this seemed to be a transparent try and intimidate a reporter making an attempt to uphold the custom and assured Constitutional proper of freedom of the press.  As Ms Freyer wrote,

the try to change a narrative by threatening to chop off entry raises deep issues amongst journalists.

‘Administrator Verma appears to suppose she will be able to bury inconvenient information by threatening reporters with blacklisting,’ stated Ivan Oransky, M.D., president of the Affiliation of Well being Care Journalists, the world’s largest group of reporters, editors, and producers overlaying well being care.

‘That tactic gained’t work – reality will out,’ Oransky stated. ‘However the very act of making an attempt to stifle a press report is a horrifying assault on the First Amendment. AHCJ intends to vigorously protest this bullying.’


Aurora Aguilar, editor-in-chief of Fashionable Healthcare, instructed AHCJ that the incident is in contrast to something she has seen in additional than 20 years in journalism.

I don’t suppose I’ve ever come throughout a scenario the place I used to be requested to take away one thing from a narrative in a method that felt like censorship,’ she stated.

Making this all of the extra extraordinary, contemplate some extra background.  Fashionable Healthcare is hardly some revolutionary pamphlet, and Virgil Dickson was not aspiring to be one other Thomas Paine.  As Ms Freyer wrote,

Aguilar stated Dickson is called a radical and honest reporter. Fashionable Healthcare, whose subscribers are mainly executives from well being care methods and insurance coverage corporations, publishes articles about CMS as soon as or twice a day.  

As an apart, Mr O’Donnell, who appeared to be appearing as Seema Verma’s bully, just isn’t a CMS, or authorities worker. 

O’Donnell, the marketing consultant who threatened to blackball Fashionable Healthcare, just isn’t a member of the media affairs workplaces for CMS or for HHS.

He was solely described as a “contractor.”  He is also a contractor with a checkered previous. 

He’s a Republican strategist who has helped GOP candidates of their political campaigns. In 2015,O’Donnell pleaded responsible to mendacity to U.S. Home ethics investigators about how a lot marketing campaign work he did with cash that got here from workplace accounts relatively marketing campaign accounts.

The USA As we speak story linked above additional said that his responsible plea

is the first time anybody has been charged with a federal crime for mendacity to the Home Workplace of Congressional Ethics, which was arrange in 2008 to vet allegations towards lawmakers and employees and advocate additional motion to the Home Ethics Committee.

The fees towards him included,

throughout his interview with OCE investigators, O’Donnell ‘knowingly and deliberately made a number of false statements to OCE in an effort to reduce and conceal the true nature and scope of his function because it associated to [Broun’s] campaigns.’ For instance, he instructed OCE investigators, ‘I by no means felt like all of my marketing campaign work was anticipated as a part of my duties.’

Abstract and Dialogue

It seems that  revered reporter for a widely known US well being care enterprise publication was barred from participation in CMS convention calls after some relatively gentle reporting on his half offended CMS management.  There appeared to be an try and intimidate the reporter by a federal “contractor” paid by CMS, a contractor who was a prison, that’s, who had pleaded responsible to a federal crime of mendacity to the Conressional Ethics workplace. 

 How far have we descended.

On Well being Care Renewal now we have been writing about makes an attempt to restrict free speech or free dialogue within the press within the well being care sphere for greater than 10 years.  By 2015, almost each case we mentioned concerned massive educational establishments, hospital methods, or for-profit well being care firms making an attempt to restrict criticism of their merchandise, actions, management, and many others. 

I don’t recall any critical circumstances involving US authorities businesses.  In spite of everything, the US has an extended custom of freedom of speech and the press, enshrined in our structure.

Nevertheless, in 2016, we began viewing with alarm the implications of candidate then President Donald Trump’s obvious makes an attempt to intimidate the press and residents who train their rights of free speech (e.g., look right here).  Now now we have a US authorities well being company slipping into the function of thought police, and utilizing the employed companies of a federal prison to intimidate a journalist.

The anechoic impact is now being shrouded in a lot deeper shadows.  We might have a brand new Thomas Paine.

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