Sunshine Week: The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: In celebration of Sunshine Week, I’ve asked journalists from around the country to tell me how they use public records in their reporting. 

BECCA AARONSON, health care & data reporter at The Texas Tribune

The Politics of Prevention
The Politics of Prevention is an occasional series on the effects of state policy on women’s health services.

I’ve used many public records for the “Politics of Prevention” series at The Texas Tribune. Below is a copy of the public information request that I sent to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to receive information on the Texas Women’s Health Program. The data is featured in this story: “Claims Drop Under State-Run Women’s Health Program.”

That information request is only for 2013, but I filed a second request for the same information from the year prior, 2012, in order to evaluate how the number of claims and provider network changed after the state ousted Planned Parenthood and set up a state-run program without federal funds.

I didn’t have any trouble getting these records. I have a pretty good relationship with the public information officer at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and she even helped me with a follow-up request for a second set of records for 2012 without requiring me to file an additional public information request. That said, not all Texas agencies are as forthcoming with public information, and I’ve had more difficulty receiving information from other agencies.

Becca’s public records request:

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I am requesting the following information regarding the Texas Women’s Health Program in an electronic format, preferably a spreadsheet or .csv file.

For each provider contracted to provide services through the Texas Women’s Health Program between Jan. 2013 through June 2013:

  • The provider’s name
  • ID number
  • Provider type (clinic, physician, nurse practitioner, etc.)
  • The code for the provider’s type
  • Address where services are provided
  • County
  • The date the provider’s contract began

For each provider, I am also requesting aggregated claims data for the first six months of 2013, or Jan. 2013 through June 2013:

  • Total number of claims filed
  • Number of claims for well-woman exams
  • Number of claims for all types of birth control/contraception
  • Number of claims for oral contraceptives
  • Number of claims for Depo Provera shot or and other injected contraceptives
  • Number of claims for inter-uterine devices
  • Number of claims for implanon or nexplanon
  • Number of claims for the NuvaRing
  • Number of claims for the Ortho Evra Patch.

I am specifically requesting this information in an electronic format, preferably a spreadsheet or .csv.

As a journalist requesting this information to benefit the public interest, I ask that you waive any costs associated with gathering this information. If you are not able to waive such costs, please provide a detailed cost estimation associated with my request. If you have any questions or concerns regarding my request, or believe that any of the information I’ve requested is exempt under the Public Information Act, I respectfully ask that you contact me before sending my request to the Attorney General’s office for review. I may be willing to modify my request to ease the burden on your staff if it would ensure a timelier processing of my request. If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify why the agency withheld that information by referencing specific exemptions to the act.

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Thanks to Becca Aaronson for sharing her story. To get updates on what journalists I’m featuring during Sunshine Week, follow me on Twitter @RecordsGeek. If you are a journalist and would like your public records story featured on this blog, email kahinchcliffe@gmail.com.

Previously featured:

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