White House pushed idea of paying physicians to encourage COVID-19 vaccination

The Washington Post reported that the idea was opposed by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

In an effort to promote COVID-19 vaccination in spring 2021, the White House pushed forward a plan to pay physicians to encourage their patients to get vaccinated, according to a Jan. 31 report in the Washington Post.

The plan, of which details are scarce but would have reimbursed doctors through Medicare and Medicaid, was opposed by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra over his concerns that the plan “lacked sufficient oversight and might lead to fraud,” according to the Post report.

White House officials who pushed for the plan were correct that physicians are their best bet to help convince patients to be vaccinated. L. Allen Dobson, Jr., MD, the chief medical adviser for Medical Economics, wrote in a column last year that physicians are trusted by their patients, and are a better messenger for pro-vaccine arguments than politicians and even public health organizations.

Dobson wrote:

National polls have continued to show significant numbers of patients who are either hesitant or decline to receive the vaccine.

While those numbers have improved during the last month, in order to achieve herd immunity, we must convince most of the hesitant and a few of the refusers to get the vaccine.

In a recent Green Center patient survey, almost half the population distrusted the CDC and public health institutions. But there’s good news here: more than 80% trusted their primary care clinician.

Whether it is by local public appeals or during one-on-one interactions with their patients, our community primary care physicians and pharmacists are our best ambassadors for vaccination and achieving the rates needed to protect patients. As it is for most complex tasks, the last mile is the hardest. We need our primary care physicians leading the charge on the anchor leg of this race.