On December 2, 2014, we filed two briefs in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, following the court’s decision to hear our appeal. Two amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs were also filed in support of our position by the Pennsylvania News Media Association and Dr. Daniel Polsky at the University of Pennsylvania.
We are asking the court to review whether or not financial transactions funneled from a public entity to a private contractor can be hidden from the public eye under the guise of constituting “trade secrets.” We believe that this type of financial information about how taxpayer dollars are spent should be out in the open for public scrutiny.
Furthermore, the amount of money we are attempting to track in this case is not just a drop in the bucket, but instead makes up a significant portion of the General Fund budget. To quote our brief: “The Right to Know Law was enacted to promote confidence that public officials will spend tax dollars in an efficient manner and consistent with their intended purpose. Shielding from public view how nearly one third of the General Fund budget flows from DPW to providers substantially undermines that goal.”
Our litigation has attracted significant support from academic researchers and the media. The case law to be developed by the Supreme Court will affect not just providers and those enrolled in Medicaid, but journalists, researchers, policy makers and countless others. As such, two amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs were filed in support of our position.
The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s (PNA) brief argues that the Right to Know Law is designed to increase public access and accountability and that intention should be respected by the court. If the court decides that the Right to Know Law does not apply to documents that are held by private companies conducting public work on public dollars, governments and companies will be able to hide from public access any information they like simply by contracting or subcontracting with a private agency. PNA represents more than 300 newspapers and media organizations across the state.
The next brief was filed by Dr. Daniel Polsky, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and a professor of medicine and health care management at the Perelman and Wharton schools, respectively. Polsky argues that Pennsylvania desperately needs to improve its health care system and can only do so when data about the delivery and implementation of the system is transparent and available. With access to data on the rates paid to providers, policy makers can improve delivery policies and understand the gaps in types of specialist providers not accepting Medicaid. As importantly, data will help policymakers ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently. Polsky also notes that the federal government provides access to analogous Medicare data.
Read our briefs and the amicus briefs here: