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'Secret Shoppers' Testing Doctor's Offices For Government Study

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Much like companies employ "secret shoppers" to rate their business practices and catch a glimpse of how their employees REALLY treat customers, the government is employing people to pose as potential patients to investigate how doctor offices in 9 states treat people with different types of insurance.

These fake patients will call the offices of 465 doctors in each state involved in the study to determine how the offices respond to potential patients with private insurance, medicaid, or "self-pay patients".

The process — which will begin in Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia in a few months — is described as follows:

Each office will be called at least twice — by a person who supposedly has private insurance and by someone who supposedly has public insurance. …

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.

Many practicing physicians are upset by the Obama administrations move, but the government insists the survey will shed light on the public health problem of primary care doctor shortages.

It doesn't seem like the secret inquiries into the types of insurance doctors accept is to invasive. Plus, if these doctors have nothing to hide, they should have nothing to worry about!

A federal health official has promised results of the survey will be strictly confidential with only collective information being released without any mention of specific offices.

[Image via AP Images.]

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