Physicians Often Withhold Information About Treatments Not Covered by Health Insurance, Survey Finds
Physicians often withhold information about treatments from their patients when the health insurance that their patients have does not cover the treatments, according to a survey in the current issue of Health Affairs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. In the survey, researchers conducted a national survey of physicians in 1998 and 1999; about 31% of survey respondents said that they did not offer "useful care to patients because of health plan coverage rules at least 'sometimes.'" In addition, 35% of those respondents said that they withheld information about treatments more often than they did five years earlier, the survey found (Lipman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/8). Physicians were most likely to withhold information about treatments to avoid cases in which patients ask them to manipulate health plan rules to provide treatments not covered, according to the survey. The survey also found that physicians who have a large percentage of patients enrolled in Medicaid were more likely to withhold information about treatments because of coverage rules (Wynia et al., Health Affairs, 7/8). Dr. Matthew Wynia, lead author of the study and director of the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association, said that physicians who withhold information about treatments from patients violate AMA and other medical ethics codes. "Honesty is just a fundamental principle of physician-patient interaction. In the long run, it is imperative that physicians adhere to this ethical principle," Wynia said (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/8). An abstract of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.