In honor of Sunshine Week in Washington, D.C., here's an update on our effort to pry information out of the government to explain why Tricare, the Pentagon’s health plan, has refused to cover certain kinds of treatment for traumatic brain injuries.
Nearly a year ago, we asked Tricare to give us reviews of a study it commissioned that criticized cognitive rehabilitation therapy, an expensive treatment for brain-injured soldiers. Officials with the agency denied our Freedom of Information Act request, telling us the reviews weren't government records. Since we had obtained copies of the reviews, and had written a story on the topic, we thought Tricare's decision was wrong. We appealed -- and got a partial victory this week.
In a letter responding to our appeal, Tricare officials told us they had conducted another search that "found" three private sector peer reviews. They acknowledged that the reviews were "agency records." They provided redacted copies of the reviews, which were critical of Tricare's study. One called the Tricare study "deeply flawed."
Tricare still has not produced two other reviews. ECRI, the health assessment contractor that carried out the study, had two scientists review its findings. According to a spokesman, ECRI provided Tricare with copies of those reviews along with the study, but Tricare did not provide us with copies of them. ECRI and other sources have told us that they, too, are critical of ECRI's findings.
So, we've decide to file yet another appeal. In addition to the two missing reviews, we are asking -- again -- for a copy of the contract between Tricare and ECRI.
When Round Two has a result, we'll let you know.