The idea was for HHS to hire mystery shoppers to try to make appointments at doctors’ offices to gauge Medicaid and Medicare patients’ access to primary care physicians. However, Republicans and some physicians criticized the proposal. Rep. David P. Roe, a doctor and Tennessee Republican, likened the plan to “spying on physicians.”
In a statement explaining the move to back off the idea, HHS said, “After receiving 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 build on our efforts to increase the access to health care providers nationwide.”
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in April issued a press release about an undercover shopper survey it conducted to find out how video game retailers enforced entertainment ratings. The FTC said it recruited 13- to 16-year-old children, unaccompanied by a parent, to try to buy R-rated movies and DVDs, music carrying a parental advisory label and video games rated “M” or suitable for people 17 and older.
Regulations on mystery shopping vary by state, with differing rules on whether and when people can covertly record conversations. Elaine Buxton, president of Confero, said her company abides by all the rules in each state.
She declined to comment on the Education Department contract. In general, she said, the company isn’t out to look for “bad behavior” but rather “provides a fact-based report” on how typical consumers are treated.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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