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June 28 2011

"Mystery Shoppers" Coming to a Doctor Near You

Hadley Heath

The federal government is planning on launching a new "study" to investigate access to primary care by paying contracted workers to call doctors' offices and pose as sick patients.  Some of the patients will have private insurance, some will have Medicare or Medicaid, and the government wants to know more about how this affects wait times and access to care.

First of all, as some doctors have said, it's common knowledge (at least in the medical community) that people with Medicare and Medicaid have a harder time seeing a doctor.  And there's a reason for this: Doctors aren't reimbursed very well for these patients.  In fact, the reimbursement rates from these government programs fall so far below market rates that many doctors have decided not to accept any new patients who don't have private insurance.  It's also well known (and has been for years), that the United States faces a worsening shortage in primary care physicians.  So as a taxpayer, I have to admit I think this study is wasteful.  Plenty of private firms have and will perform similar research

But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this kind of "study" on behalf of the government is intrusive and disrespectful to doctors. 

I remember when I first discovered "three-way calling."  I was a middle-school-aged girl, and the idea of getting someone to confess their true feelings about someone while he or she quietly listened on the line was super intriguing.  I asked my dad if our phone bill would increase if I made a three-way call, and eventually he got to the bottom of my motives.  He told me that people of integrity don't do stuff like that - that that would violate someone's trust.  I never did it again, but a few years later I did get a good laugh at the movie "Mean Girls," when Lindsay Lohan's character falls prey to this same kind of immature trick.

So why does the federal government want to lie to doctors on the phone?  More than a "Mean Girl" study, this study is borderline "Big Brother."  Sadly, this is just one example of the Left's view of individuals.  Individuals cannot be trusted. 

If the government trusted doctors to be truthful, they'd send them a survey in the mail, or call them and plainly say, "Hello, I'm calling from the Department of Health and Human Services, and I'd like to talk to you about the patients you serve and how you serve them."  If the study is really as anonymous as they say, doctors shouldn't be afraid to talk - in fact, many would probably welcome the opportunity to discuss the obstacles they face in treating more patients or treating patients better and faster.

But many doctors have already expressed their feelings about health policy:  Get the government out of the way.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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