Blog Post

Obama Administration Plans to "Snoop" on Doctors

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist Doctors across the nation are reacting with concern over a new program to be launched by the Obama Administration which will involve a team of "mystery shoppers" who will pose as patients and call doctor's offices for appointments to see how difficult it is for people to get care. The New York Times is reporting that the new program is intended to address a "critical public policy program" - the increasing shortage of primary care doctors  and specialists in internal medicine and family practice. It will also try to determine if doctors are taking patients with private insurance over those in government health programs that pay lower rates. In a description of the project prepared for the White House by the Department of Health and Human Services, federal officials are predicting that when an additional 30 million Americans gain health care coverage in 2014, “these newly insured Americans will need to seek out new primary care physicians, further exacerbating the already growing problem” of a shortage of such physicians in the United States. Christian J. Stenrud, a Health and Human Services spokesman, told the Times: “Access to primary care is a priority for the administration. This study is an effort to better understand the problem and make sure we are doing everything we can to support primary care physicians, especially in communities where the need is greatest.” The government plans to spend almost $350,000 just on the initial survey of doctors which will be conducted by a federal contractor. The contractor will call the offices of 4,185 doctors — 465 in each of nine states: Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Doctors called will include pediatricians and obstetrician-gynecologists.  Each office is to be called twice, once by a person posing as a prospective patient with private insurance, and again by a person posing as someone on Medicare or Medicaid. In some cases a third call will be made, this time identifying the caller as a government employee to see if the answers are the same as those given to the caller while they were posing as a patient. Needless to say, doctors are outraged by the program. “I don’t like the idea of the government snooping,” said Dr. Raymond Scalettar, an internist in Washington. “It’s a pernicious practice — Big Brother tactics, which should be opposed.” Dr. Stephen C. Albrecht, a family doctor in Olympia, Wash., told Times: “If federal officials are worried about access to care, they could help us. They don’t have to spy on us.” Dr. Robert L. Hogue, a family physician in Brownwood, Tex., asked: “Is this a good use of tax money? Probably not. Everybody with a brain knows we do not have enough doctors.” The program is expected to kick off in a few months with the preliminary results from the survey expected sometime next spring. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®