Some physicians are willing to misrepresent clinical information to insurance companies to circumvent appeals processes. Whether characteristics of appeals processes affect the likelihood of misrepresentation is unknown. This study sought to determine the relationship between the likelihood of a successful appeal, appeals process length, and severity of the health condition and physicians' willingness to sanction deception.
A random sample of 1617 physicians was surveyed by mail to assess their willingness to accept an insurance company restriction, to appeal the restriction, or to misrepresent the facts to an insurance company to obtain coverage for a patient.
Most respondents would appeal (77%) rather than accept (12%) or misrepresent (11%) regarding a restriction on medically necessary care. Physicians' decisions were related to the likelihood of a successful appeal (χ2 = 7.56; P = .02), the appeals process length (χ2 = 8.53; P = .01), and the severity of the medical condition (χ2 = 71.10; P<.001). A small but significantly larger number of physicians chose to misrepresent the facts to an insurer as the appeals process became more cumbersome. Among physicians asked about severe angina, their decisions were particularly affected by the hassle associated with appealing, being more likely to choose to misrepresent the facts to the insurer than to appeal as the hassle increased.
Physicians are more willing to sanction deception when the appeals process is longer, the likelihood of a successful appeal is lower, and the health condition is more severe. Changes in the difficulty of appeals processes may ease the tensions physicians face regarding patient advocacy and honesty.