A controversial plan that would have “mystery shoppers” pose as patients to investigate how hard it is for patients to obtain primary care was been nixed by the Obama Administration, Tuesday.
The program, announced two months ago would have assembled more than four thousand mystery shoppers to contact 465 physicians officers in nine states to “accurately gauge availability of Primary Care Physicians,” according to the Federal Register.
In a statement the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Politico, “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.”
The proposal hadn’t received much attention until The Times interviewed physicians who were staunchly opposed to the plan.
“If federal officials are worried about access to care, they could help us. They don’t have to spy on us,” said Dr. Stephen Albrecht a family care physician.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday this proposal is no different than other “mystery shopper” operations conducted by the Government Accountability Office during the Bush Administration.
“CMS launched a secret shopping initiative for verifying plan compliance with marketing guidelines in early 2007, working through private contractors,” read a 2007 memo from the Department of Health and Human Services to Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia objected to the plan saying ““doctors should be able to spend their time focusing on providing the highest level of quality care to their patients, not wondering when Uncle Sam might be calling to spy on them.
“This type of outrageous action sows yet another level of distrust between government and the people it serves, and it does nothing to address the underlying issue of access to care,” he added.