Back in 2007, President George W. Bush’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “initiated a secret shopper program that would secretly monitor the practices of various health plans offering Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans” to ensure that payers were complying with CMS marketing guidelines. The program was so successful that “CMS decided to continue the secret shopping through the 2008 Open Enrollment period for Medicare Advantage.” In 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) relied on secret shoppers to examine the effectiveness of Medicare’s help line.
Flash forward a few years, and President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services proposes assembling a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients at primary care doctor offices “to see how doctors responded to prospective patients’ requests for an appointment, depending on whether they are privately insured or government-insured (Medicaid or Medicare recipients).” Republicans — who didn’t have a problem with Bush’s programs — now stand outraged, even after the administration backed down from its proposal. Rep. Tim Price (R-GA) has just sent out this fundraising plea:
As a physician, I know from personal experience that a doctor’s primary focus should be on providing the highest quality of care to his or her patients. Instead, doctors would have to worry whether the bureaucrats behind Obamacare were spying on them. I, along with dozens of my House Republican colleagues, immediately called on President Obama to put an end to this half-baked proposal. Then, just days later, the Department of Health and Human Services — home of the unelected bureaucrats President Obama wants in charge of our health care — said they were abandoning their proposal to spy on doctors. This episode illustrates a critical fact: The Conservative Republican Majority in the House is the only thing standing between you and the out-of-control Obama Administration. In 2010, we saw a new wave of principled conservatives sweep into Washington, and together, we immediately began the roll-back of President Obama’s agenda. Your support of the House Conservatives Fund means these strong, conservative voices can fight back against the attacks of the left.
And so it’s unclear what the administration won in abandoning the program: Republicans are still hitting them over the head with it and will undoubtedly continue to raise fears about limited access to physicians and blame Obama for failing to take their concerns seriously.