Sunday, June 26, 2011

The White House is About to "Punk" Your Doctor's Office

Did I fall asleep and wake up in Cuba or the Soviet Union?

Not having enough on their plates already with the tanking economy, rising unemployment, rising energy prices, a bottomed out housing market and skyrocketing national debt, the Obama administration is assembling a team of prank callers to harass the few remaining doctors we still have willing to practice medicine in this looming quagmire that is Obamacare.

Straight from the New York Times:

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. 

That's right.  You've been Punk'd!   Imagine the poor receptionists in doctors offices all over America.   "What?  You don't really want that appointment after all?  Well thanks for wasting my time and keeping me from attending to someone who actually does need medical care.  Have a nice day."

It seems the Obama administration is suddenly alarmed by the shortage of doctors.  Now, I wonder why there's a shortage? 

Last year the Wall Street Journal wrote about the looming shortage of primary care physicians:

The U.S. has 352,908 primary-care doctors now, and the college association estimates that 45,000 more will be needed by 2020. But the number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.
The numbers tell the story, yet Team Obama wants to call and harass your doctor's receptionist just to be sure.  This snoopy survey is redundant; the WSJ article has the numbers:



Back to the NYT (emphasis mine):

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.
What is this "will address" part of the equation?  What are the consequences if you're busted not accepting new patients?

It will also "try to discover" if your doctor isn't accepting Medicaid patients.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but is there some law that says a doctor MUST accept Medicaid patients?  Aren't we still in a free market economy where a doctor can treat whomever he wishes?  Doesn't the Hippocratic Oath bind the doctor to ethical practices?

Needless to say, doctors aren't thrilled by this new snoop scheme.  The government snoops won't be identifying themselves as snoops, of course; if you're attempting to entrap someone, you don't blow your cover right off the bat.

Here's one of the scripts they'll be using:

Mystery shopper: “Hi, my name is Alexis Jackson, and I’m calling to schedule the next available appointment with Dr. Michael Krane. I am a new patient with a P.P.O. from Aetna. I just moved to the area and don’t yet have a primary doctor, but I need to be seen as soon as possible.”

Doctor’s office: “What type of problem are you experiencing?”

Mystery shopper: “I’ve had a cough for the last two weeks, and now I’m running a fever. I’ve been coughing up thick greenish mucus that has some blood in it, and I’m a little short of breath.” 

Seriously.   And they'll be blocking their phone number so they won't be detected through caller ID.  The offices of over 4,000 doctors in nine states will be called at least twice.  Eleven percent of those will be called a third time; this time the caller will identify himself as part of the HHS, ask if the doctor accepts new, Medicare or Medicaid patients and check for discrepancies in the story.

And guess who has been contracted to do the survey?  National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  Shocker.

What are the consequences for these doctors who refuse to accept Medicare, Medicaid, or don't feel they can take on additional patients?  Is there something in Obamacare that says they must?  Remember, you've got to pass the bill to find out what's in it.  Where does all this lead?

This all reminds me of the White House Fishy campaign of 2009 which turned out to be full of legal problems.

Call me paranoid, but it seems like a huge waste of government dollars and a whole lot like Big Brother.

Update:  There is now a Memeorandum thread on this story.

1 comment:

MikeAT said...

Even paranoids have enemies...and with this group there is no such thing as paranoia.

One of the biggest points I make with the Obamacare supporters is a simple question.  Where are you going to get the doctors?

You make medicine a miserable field to get into (like it is in England and Canada) and smart young people don't want to become physicians.  That leds to shortages of doctors, then shortages of medical care.  

God we are going down.