While many people still dream of becoming (or marrying) doctors, there is a shortage of primary care doctors. Folks in government are concerned about this and one of the most recent proposals is to have people pose as patients in order to determine the difficulty of getting care. One critical part of this is to determine if doctors are rejecting patients who belong to government health programs in favor of the more lucrative private insurance patients. This is, obviously enough, based on the mystery shopper model.
One obvious concern about this method is that it can be seen as a form of spying and also as a deception. While such deceit is acceptable in law enforcement and intelligence operations, this is justified by the fact that the targets are potential (or actual) criminals and enemies. However, the doctors are not suspected of acting illegally and hence the use of this method seems to be questionable.
A second obvious concern is that the money used in this program could be better spent in making positive contributions to health care-such as providing support for doctors willing to provide primary care services for people who are in government programs or in other ways. It is already well established that we need more primary care doctors and it seems almost equally obvious that doctors prefer patients who have private insurance. This is, of course, due to the main factor of money. In a free market system in which the main goal is to maximize profits, doctors have little incentive to pursue the lower paying career paths or to accept patients on government assistance. As such, there seems little reason to conduct a secret survey in order to learn what already seems to be known.
However, there is certainly merit in investigating the problems that motivated the mystery patient plan. However, this is something that should be done openly rather than with mystery patients.
While it would be nice of people to go through medical school and run their business solely to help people, that sort of devotion to others certainly cannot be expected of people. As such, the most plausible solutions involve providing financial incentives. This can be done by increasing support for medical school students in return for a service commitment and also making the government payouts more appealing to doctors who have money on their minds.