Free Markets, Free People

Obama administration and its health care “mystery shoppers”

One of the things many who have studied the problem of health care in the US have known for quite some time is that there is and will be a shortage of primary care doctors in the US.  These doctors are the gatekeepers in the system in which health insurance providers require primary care doctors manage the health care of patients and be the ones to authorize referrals to specialists.

The shortage of these doctors isn’t news nor is it something new.  Only 30% of practicing doctors are in primary care.  65 million Americans live in areas where a shortage of primary care doctors exists.  And ObamaCare’s extension of insurance benefits will add another 30 million to the roles who will have to seek a primary care physician.

So, how does the administration plan to address this known problem?  With incentives for such doctors to take Medicare and Medicaid patients whose reimbursement for services is known to be lower than that of private insurance?   Announce a plan to incentivize incoming medical school students to become primary care doctors?

Nope.   It’s to snoop on existing primary care doctors by enlisting “mystery shoppers” who will falsely identify themselves as potential patients with various types of insurance (Medicare, Medicaid and private) to determine whether the physicians called discriminate among who they’ll accept.

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.

As you might imagine, doctors who’ve learned about this upcoming attempt are not at all happy with it:

Dr. George J. Petruncio, a family doctor in Turnersville, N.J., said: “This is not a way to build trust in government. Why should I trust someone who does not correctly identify himself?”

Dr. Stephen C. Albrecht, a family doctor in Olympia, Wash., said: “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.”

In response the administration says:

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.

Christian J. Stenrud, a Health and Human Services spokesman, said: “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.”

Now, being the skeptic I am and having watched government operate for decades, I tend to see other possibilities in this sort of an effort.  Remember, ObamaCare was passed by Democrats, most of whom see health care as a “right”.  Thus, they feel they have the right to mandate that a) everyone have insurance and b) that everyone with insurance have access to a physician.   They got the “a” done in ObamaCare.  Left undone is the mandate that all insured have access to a doctor – without exception.  That mandate would be perfectly in-line with their belief that they can demand the skills, assets and time of one to serve the pseudo-right of another.

Why else would this “stealth survey” involving people falsely identifying themselves to doctors to determine whether they discriminate against lower paying insurance programs be planned?  The doctor shortage is known.  The administration claims that ObamaCare “includes several provisions intended to increase the supply of primary care doctors” and that this survey is intended to “evaluate the effectiveness of those policies. “  Really?  Considering that the law has been in effect only a short time and is not fully in effect, one might find it a bit hard to believe that bit of spin.

Instead it seems much more likely that this is a prelude to something else.  This is information gathering to prove something – i.e. doctors are discriminating.  And we all know that in our new, brave world, “discrimination” is a mortal political sin.  Does anyone not believe the outcome of such a survey might be used to attempt to pass an anti-discrimination law or a law which requires primary care physicians to accept anyone with insurance who applies regardless of coverage? 

Yeah, me too.


Twitter: @McQandO


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20 Responses to Obama administration and its health care “mystery shoppers”

  • Lefties don’t like incentives. They think you (not them, just you) should provide value without any incentive for doing so.
    So they get rid of incentives. The result is what anybody but a lefty would predict: People provide less value.
    Well, now you’ve got a problem. How do you make people start providing value again, without allowing them to derive any benefit from it? Y’see, they used to be “greedy”, back when they were responding sanely to incentives, and that was pretty bad. But now, they’re unjustly depriving everybody else of their own labor. That’s much worse than the hellish crime of charging a fair price for it. Even if we were to turn around and admit that incentives work, we couldn’t possibly “reward” these criminals for their recalcitrance.
    So we can’t offer them a carrot. All that’s left is the stick.
    Every time lefties get power, this happens. You need to give people reasons to contribute to society or they won’t do it, and rewards for compliance work much better for everybody than punishment for non-compliance. Well, better for everybody except the enforcers.
    They never learn. Either that, or they learned the first time, and they’re not as dumb as they claim.

  • Another point:
    With normal crimes, you punish people for doing things you want them not to do.
    Lefties want to punish us for NOT doing what they DO want us to do. “Negative crimes”, so to speak — which is for the most part as perverse as positive “rights”.
    On the other hand, most of us would agree that there should be legal penalties for not paying taxes. And of course, many of the crimes the left wishes to punish really are “positive crimes”: Expressing bad thoughts, buying lightbulbs, etc. So let’s not oversimplify.

  • Oh the irony.

    The White House defended the survey, saying a similar technique had been used on a smaller scale in President George W. Bush’s administration.

    If President George W. Bush’s administration was doing it, it must have been right and A OK!

    • Obama: Bigger and Better Bush

    • Why don’t you look up what ObamaFuhrer was referring to and get back to us, rather than just barfing crap back like a good ObamaJugen?

  • My guess is that the purpose of this is to find out how many doctors are turning away government/welfare patients.  It’ll probably turn out to be shockingly high.  As with the doctor shortage we know medicare patients are being turned away.  So when the grim numbers come the government will have to come up with a new solution created by their ‘solving’ of the last problem.  And considering this bunch has no problem directing society I’ll wager that the new solution will be to make seeing ‘X’ number of government/welfare patients a requirement of having a license.  Or even worse, make it illegal to turn patients away based on coverage.
    This will just make more doctors quit.

    • I have thought about this. Because, we already have Medicaid, but you can still find vast numbers of lefties on-line who say poor people have no health care, but in Europe they do.
      Except, we do have healthcare for the poor – its called Medicaid.
      I think a lot of lefties assume we don’t help people at all, or they just feel that Medicaid must be icky – a lot more icky than some program with a French name. I suspect they want poor people to have access to the best care. This of course, is like demanding poor people get five star cuisine and not McDonalds, of course but they don’t care.
      But again, I would bet 30% of lefties totally forget we have Medicaid.
      Like that idiot who robbed a bank to get health care. My lefty friends tsked tsked that on Facebook…but if the dude was unemployed and poor, he should be able to get Medicaid! (Not to mention there were two free clinics within miles of his robbery.)

  • The administration has signed a contract with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to help conduct the survey.

    The community organizer taking care of the folks back home.

    • I wonder if NORC is doing any work for Obama 2012 or Organizing for America … at a discount .. wink, wink, know what I mean, nudge, nudge

  • It seems to me that this information should be readily available through a few database searches and with the cooperation of state medical boards.
    1. How many unique doctors are we paying for medicare patients?
    2. How many unique doctors are the states paying for medicaid patients? (okay that would be 50 queries)
    3. From each state licensing board, how many doctors are regulated by you that list their practice as primary care?
    The odd thing here is that you could also do this with a telephone survey.
    Hello, is this a primary care office? Y/N
    Do you currently treat medicare patients? Y/N
    Do you currently accept new medicare patients? Y/N
    Do you currently treat medicaid patients? Y/N
    Do you currently accept new medicaid patients? Y/N
    Thanks for your time.

  • How many examples of corrupt, inefficient, bloated bureaucracy does it take to educate the average voter not to support the agenda of the Progressive, Liberal Left? I guess that depends on whether you are a Producer or a Taker. The very survival of our Great Republic depends on eliminating the profit in being or becoming a Taker.

    • See John‘s comment above:


      You cannot teach a progressive anything.  They simply aren’t interested in the truth as it makes them feel bad about themselves.  I mean, really: how embarrassing must it be to be a gorebot, Obamaite, etc?  Who would want to admit that, even to themselves?  So, they devise all sorts of reasons to explain away all those (dare I write it?) incovenient truths.

  • “the data would be kept confidential”

    If this were worrying the doctors I doubt that they would give out the information to unknown phone callers. Doctors aren’t totally stupid, they know what the information is going to be used for.

    • “Doctors aren’t totally stupid,”
      Nope, that’s why we like that sort of person to become doctors.    It’s also why a lot of them aren’t taking the ‘Mediwhatever’ patients, or going into Primary Care,  as you said, not stupid.
      But obviously they ARE greedy and self serving, and acting like conservatives, so….we’ll have to pass a few laws…to uh… make sure they stop that kind of behavior and to help them see the error of their ways.

    • Confidential, like the IRS records that wound up in Hillary’s bedroom (or where ever) or the ECHELON corporate emails that wound up in the hands of their competitors who were Clinton campaign contributors?

  • …falsely identify themselves as potential patients with various types of insurance (Medicare, Medicaid and private) to determine whether the physicians called discriminate among who they’ll accept.

    Why is government paying for this?  Aren’t there any private interests doing this kind of thing?
    And why the HHS?
    Strikes me as a targeted threat.  “Nice little medical practice you got there…”

  • “Reports will present aggregate data, and individuals will not be identified,” said the official.
    <a href=”″>Where</a> have I heard that before?

  • Odd* that they aren’t considering the obvious, trivial way to ensure that doctors accept such patients.
    Pay the same rates for seeing them that actual real insurance pays, or slightly less but with no hassles.
    (*Okay, not odd at all, in fact. But odd given the parts they’ll admit to in public.)