From the NYT
Aren't these the guys Obama wanted on his side? photo from Politico.com
Obama invited all these doctors to the White House, dressed them in taxpayer funded lab coats, schmoozed them and courted them to get their much needed endorsement for his Health Care plan and now he’s stealthily stabbing them in the back.
Is this what they had in mind when they went to the Rose Garden? I have to wonder if they understood how the government under Obama can and will reach it’s tentacles into their lives and livelihoods.
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.
But of course, none of this information will be used against any particular doctor:
In response to the drumbeat of criticism, a federal health official said doctors did not need to 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.
And these doctors are really supposed to believe this nonsense?
If this doesn’t reek of intimidation, nothing does. And I see nowhere in the story that the reporter called the AMA to get their opinion on this. I also have to wonder how the decisions were made regarding what states to target with these “mystery shopper” calls:
[…] 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. [In addition to family practice physicans and internal medicine doctors.]
What I find most troubling about this is that these nearly 4200 doctors will be called at least twice to determine if the doctor has different standards of care for private insurance patients versus government insured patients. But 11% of these doctors will be called a third time and this time the caller will identify himself as a govenment employee and 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.
Tell me again that these results will not be used against a physician – tell me again that this information will be kept confidential. Tell me again how Obama wants the support of America’s doctors, most of whom do not belong to the AMA, by the way.