Question of the Week

We would like to learn more information about a new statement of policy issued recently by our State Medical Board.  Do State Medical Boards have to respond to Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests?

It depends.  The federal FOIA provides public access to all federal agency records not covered by an exception or exclusion.  According to 5 U.S.C.A. § 552, FOIA requests apply only to federal agencies, not to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies.  Since State Medical Boards are functions of state governments, they fall outside the limits of FOIA requests.

However, all states have implemented their own FOIA-like statutes that parallel the federal FOIA and allow access to information related to state agencies.  Before you can definitively determine whether a State Medical Board would have to respond to a state FOIA-like request, you need to consider any possible exceptions the state may have carved out for health professional related agencies.

For example, Oregon has developed its own FOIA request system, but if an individual wants to access the public records of a health professional regulatory or health licensing board that have been deemed confidential or exempt from public disclosure, they must demonstrate to the Attorney General, “by clear and convincing evidence that the public interest in disclosure outweighs,” the public