Monday, June 27, 2011

UPDATE 6/28: GAME OVER - Obama's Version of "Mystery Date"

Ladies (conservative and liberal) from my era will remember Milton Bradley's game, "Mystery Date". I spent many happy times playing this game with my girl friends back in the day.

It's kind of like the last presidential election.  America played "Mystery Candidate" and got the "dud"...but I digress...

Well, the Obama Administration has it's own version of "Mystery Date". It's called "Mystery Shopper".  These "Mystery Shoppers" will be making dates with some doctors in the near future.
According to the NYT Money & Policy report:

U.S. Plans Stealth Survey on Access to Doctors

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. 
 And what, pray tell, with the "Mystery Shoppers" be doing?
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.
How much will this "stealth survey" cost us taxpayers?
Federal officials said the initial survey would cost $347,370.
The "initial survey"?  How many of these surveys are they planning?

"Mystery Shoppers" will call doctor's offices and pose as prospective patients and they will hide their telephone numbers by blocking caller ID information.  Another mystery!

The doctor won't know who their "Mystery Shopper" is...will it be Alexis who is new in town with no primary doctor, has a cough, a fever and is spitting up green mucus with blood in it and is short of breath.  Or will it be the other mystery shopper (maybe Frank) who will try to schedule appointments for routine care, like an annual checkup for an adult or a sports physical for a high school athlete.  (The article actually has a sample script of how one of these calls would be handled.)
The calls are to begin in a few months, with preliminary results from the survey expected next spring. Each office will be called at least twice — by a person who supposedly has private insurance and by someone who supposedly has public insurance. 

Another mystery will be whether or not the doctor will be in the 11% who will be tested for consistent answers:
Eleven percent of the doctors will be called a third time. The callers will identify themselves as calling “on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” They will ask whether the doctors accept private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare, and whether they take “self-pay patients.” The study will note any discrepancies between those answers and the ones given to mystery shoppers.

Of course, the government thought of just asking consumers about their experiences with doctor appointments, but hey, they're too stupid or biased to report accurately:
The government could survey consumers directly, but patients may not accurately recall how long it took to get an appointment, and their estimates could be colored by their satisfaction with the doctor, researchers said.
(..and the consumer's responses may not result in the outcome that best serves the Obama Administration.)
In the mystery shopper survey, administration officials said, a federal 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. The doctors will include pediatricians and obstetrician-gynecologists.
Read the entire article here.
This all seems like "Big Brother" to me...
no mystery about it.

or as TCGuy said, "...sounds like a sting operation". 

UPDATE 6/28:
Politico Reports:

White House dumps 'secret shopper' survey of doctors

The Obama administration will not move forward on a controversial proposal to have “secret shoppers” pose as patients to investigate how difficult it is for patients to receive primary care.
“On April 28th, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services submitted a notice to the Federal Register regarding a proposed study that would examine access to primary care,” an HHS spokesman said in a statement. “After reviewing feedback received during the public comment period, we have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project. Instead, we will pursue other initiatives that build on our efforts to increase access to health care providers nationwide.”
Hopefully a final end to a very disturbing idea!