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Obamacare’s ‘Mystery Shoppers’

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By Doug Powers  •  June 27, 2011 11:15 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

In the past year or so, not a single doctor who I’ve asked about Obamacare has responded positively. Now they probably won’t respond at all because they’ll think I’m an undercover government health care agent.

From the New York Times:

Alarmed by a shortage of primary care doctors, Obama administration officials are recruiting a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients, call doctors’ offices and request appointments to see how difficult it is for people to get care when they need it.

The administration says the survey will address a “critical public policy problem”: the increasing shortage of primary care doctors, including specialists in internal medicine and family practice. It will also try to discover whether doctors are accepting patients with private insurance while turning away those in government health programs that pay lower reimbursement rates.

Plans for the survey have riled many doctors because the secret shoppers will not identify themselves as working for the government.
[...]
According to government documents obtained from Obama administration officials, the mystery shoppers will call medical practices and ask if doctors are accepting new patients and, if so, how long the wait would be. The government is eager to know whether doctors give different answers to callers depending on whether they have public insurance, like Medicaid, or private insurance, like Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

There are no more alarming words in the English language than “the government is eager to…” (with the possible exception of “@RepWeiner is now following you on Twitter”).

Undercover government snoops keeping doctors and/or their staff on the phone with undercover “surveys”? Hey, that’s sure to help decrease wait times! And if they’re worried about a shortage of doctors, there’s no better way to perpetuate that problem than by making their offices devote resources to answering questions from “mystery shoppers.”

Does anybody buy this one?

In response to the drumbeat of criticism, a federal health official said doctors need not worry because the data would be kept confidential. “Reports will present aggregate data, and individuals will not be identified,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the plan before its final approval by the White House.

Don’t worry, doctors — if you’re found to be in violation of a government health care rule, the Health Department will be too busy implementing Obamacare to aggressively follow up. Oh, but they do reserve the right to turn your case over to the Department of Education.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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