What is FOIA?
Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any records requested under the FOIA unless the release of records falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement. As Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all recognized, the FOIA is a vital part of our democracy.
What is the Presumption of Openness and Who Issues Guidance to Agencies on the FOIA?
The FOIA provides that when processing requests, agencies should withhold records only if they reasonably foresee that disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption, or if disclosure is prohibited by law. Agencies should also consider whether partial disclosure of records is possible whenever they determine that full disclosure is not possible and they should take reasonable steps to segregate and release nonexempt records. The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice is responsible for issuing government-wide guidance on the FOIA as part of its responsibilities to encourage all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA.
How to File a CMS FOIA and/or FOIA/Privacy Act Request
- For Medicare beneficiary claim records – Requestors, including third party requestors with proper Medicare HIPAA authorization, can now submit their FOIA/Privacy Act requests for an individual’s Medicare claims directly to CMS via our new Medicare Beneficiary Claims Portal. This is the most efficient and timely way for CMS to gather records and respond to all our Medicare claim records requesters.
- For any other CMS agency records (such as CMS cost reports, provider records, investigation records, policy records, or email records, etc.) – Members of the public can submit their FOIA requests directly to CMS via our electronic FOIA.gov Portal.
- You may also submit requests via email, fax, or U.S. Mail. Please note that it may take additional processing time to respond.
E-mail your request to FOIA_Request@cms.hhs.gov
Fax your request to 443-380-8871
Mail your request in an envelope, clearly marked “FOIA Request”, to
Freedom of Information Act Office
Mail Stop C5-11-06
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21244
Please choose only one method to submit your request to avoid duplicate requests (i.e., identical requests received via different means). CMS will act only on the initial request.
How Will CMS Process Your FOIA Request?
When CMS receives your FOIA request it is entered into CMS’ automated tracking system and assigned a control number. A FOIA analyst will review your request to understand the types(s) of records you wish to obtain and assign your request to the appropriate CMS program office(s) to search for responsive records. You will receive an acknowledgement letter with a control number and corresponding PIN number with instructions for checking the status of your request.
Additional CMS FOIA Resources