Tomorrow’s Panic Today: Obama’s Plan to Spy on Doctors

This, from a town hall hosted by Rep. Tim Walberg, was a new one on me.

[Walberg] also spoke of a new federal requirement linked to the administration’s health care reform program that he compared to spying on doctors. Walberg said President Obama has now authorized an investigation, or in another word, the Congressman termed, spying, on physicians to find out if they’re following the plan he referred to as Obamacare.

Walberg said it would be carried out through various means and wondered while we’re worried about wire-tapping and other such issues, the administration is having Big Brother watch over doctors.

Walberg was referring to this : a plan for “mystery shoppers” to inquire about medical care and ask if they get different advice based on what plans they have. Doctors don’t love it, and the Times had to dig to find it, but it sounds like the sort of investigation the GAO does from time to time; this one’s being done with the National Opinion Research Center.

Federal officials provided this example of a script for a caller in a managed care plan known as a preferred provider organization, or P.P.O.:

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.”

In separate interviews, several doctors said that patients with those symptoms should immediately see a doctor because the symptoms could indicate pneumonia , lung cancer or a blood clot in the lungs.

Not much here that suggests what Walberg fears. Frame it as “government trying to determine whether everyone can count on the same advice depending on their health care plan” and that’s one thing; frame it as “government spying on doctors to make sure they’re following Obamacare” and it’s another. (“ObamaCare,” anyway, is the law of the land; would we get a similar panic if the government was checking into gas stations to see if they were obeying regulations against price gouging?)