Seventy percent of physicians surveyed by Georgetown University Medical Center say there are circumstances under which they would condone lying to an insurer.
Victor G. Freeman, M.D., primary-care research fellow, presented 167 internists from around the country with medical scenarios and asked the question, "Should a physician colleague deceive a third-party payer to obtain coverage for a 'medically indicated' referral?"
Results show that physicians were more likely to find deception acceptable when the coverage was for a life-threatening illness such as severe angina or chronic atherosclerosis.
The survey found sanctioning of dishonesty is proportionately greater in areas with higher rates of managed-care penetration.
Freeman agrees that lying is unethical but also points out it's unethical for a physician not to do what's necessary to save a life. "It's better to err on the side of the patient," Freeman says.