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HHS Cancels 'Mystery Shopper' Program Following Public Comment Period

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has decided to cancel its "mystery shopper" program, originally intended to analyze whether primary care physicians accept or reject new patients based on the type of insurance they hold, according to an ABC News report.

According to an HHS official, HHS decided to table the research project for now after receiving feedback during the public comment period. The government will instead focus on improving access to primary care through training new practitioners, encouraging physicians to practice in underserved areas and offering better payments to providers.

The original government proposal would have assigned staff from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning Evaluation to call 4,185 primary care physicians in nine states and pose as potential patients. The patients would say they had either private or public insurance, which could help determine whether physicians select new patients based on the kind of insurance they have.

Many reactions to the proposed program were negative; the American Medical Association strongly opposed the proposal, suggesting it would use valuable funds that could instead be spent increasing patient access to care.

Read the ABC News report on mystery shoppers.

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