CMS Freedon Information Overview


The Freedom of Information Act provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that any portions of such records are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. The FOIA thus established a statutory right of public access to Executive Branch information in the federal government.

The United States Supreme Court has explained that "[t]he basic purpose of [the] FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed." The "FOIA is often explained as a means for citizens to know 'what their Government is up to.'" The Supreme Court stressed that "[t]his phrase should not be dismissed as a convenient formalism." Rather, "[i]t defines a structural necessity in a real democracy.

Privacy Act:   An individual shall have access to any record that is maintained on that individual in a CMS system of record (SOR) when requested, unless the record is maintained in an exempt SOR or meets other Privacy Act criteria for not permitting access.

Individuals shall be informed of any records that are collected, maintained, and/or used by CMS from which information is retrieved by a unique identifier (e.g., the name of the individual, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual).  The mechanism for this notification is via the publication of a SOR notice in the Federal Register that is available for public comment.  Individuals shall also be informed when their records are subject to computer matching.  The mechanism for this notification is via the publication of a CMA in the Federal Register that is available for public comment.  After the required comment period and review/clearance of all comments, a final SOR notice or CMA shall be published in the Federal Register.

Privacy Act Requests

The administration of the Privacy Act is conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Office of Information Services, Enterprise Data Group, Division of Data Liaison and Distribution.

For additional information, please visit the CMS' Privacy Act page or call the Data Disclosure Help Line: 410-786-3690.

Records That Are Not Processed Under The FOIA

  • Public Use Files (PUFs) - (See related link at the bottom of the page.)
  • Online Survey Certification and Report System (OSCAR)
  • Statistical Data - Contact our Customer Service section. The administration and production of many CMS Statistical Databases are under the auspices of the Enterprise Data Group of CMS. They can be contacted via our Customer Service section.
  • Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MEDPAR) Records - Visit our Customer Service section.
  • Letters written as inquiries or questions concerning CMS program issues, in which there is no request for federal records or documents are not processed under FOIA. Direct your inquiry or questions to the appropriate program office.
  • You can obtain many CMS Manuals online or read how to order a hard copy here.

FOIA Handbook (PDF)

Page Last Modified:
09/06/2023 04:51 PM