Plaintiff attorneys claim CMS is blocking once-public nursing home info under Trump

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Attorneys who investigate abuse and neglect at the nation's nursing homes say the Trump administration is blocking access to records and charging large fees when they do produce them, according to interviews, government correspondence and lawsuits cited by Law360.

Lawyers told the website that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services changed it policies since the Obama administration, leading to several legal challenges.

“They took data that they'd produced in its entirety free of charge prior to the [2016] election, and then started charging a thousand dollars to search for the data, and then would send us a letter saying they've redacted portions of the data that made the data unusable for our purposes,” said Jonathan Steele of The Steele Law Firm LLC.

Last month, he filed a lawsuit challenging CMS' disclosure policies.

The Law360 report claims that the resistance follows CMS' “abandonment” last year of a previous effort to give nursing home residents greater litigation rights instead of forcing them into arbitration.

In at least four lawsuits, attorney allege CMS has made improper redactions or charged excessive fees in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Law360 sent one of those lawsuits to the American Health Care Association and asked whether the group had advocated for more restrictions on nursing home records.

Carly Moore Sfregola, a spokeswoman for the AHCA, told Law360: “This is the first we have heard of this lawsuit, and our comments to CMS are all public.”

AHCA has a longstanding practice of filing comments on the record on CMS and Congressional policies and proposals. Calls to both AHCA and CMS late Monday afternoon asking for comment for this article were not returned as of production deadline.