A follow-up to Ed’s post from yesterday. No worries: The program’s not really dead, it’s just … resting. It’ll be back in a few years, once ObamaCare goes into effect and millions more Boomers have landed on the Medicare rolls. That’s when the doctor shortage will really begin to bite.

“After reviewing feedback received during the public comment period, we have determined that now is not the time to move forward with this research project,” an HHS official said in a statement.

Instead, according to the statement, the government would focus on improving access to primary care in other ways, including an emphasis on training new practitioners and encouraging providers to practice in underserved areas. The Obama administration is also working on a plan to offer better payments to providers…

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide insurance coverage to millions more Americans, in part by expanding eligibility for Medicaid, which experts believe will place a much greater burden on the health care system unless problems surrounding the availability of care are addressed. The findings from the “mystery shopper” initiative could have helped determine where the biggest problems lie.

“My guess is that it will find that Medicare patients have some problems, but that Medicaid patients have very big problems getting doctors, especially in states with low reimbursement rates,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

It was silly to float something like this at a moment of high anxiety about U.S. health care. The GOP’s pounding the table about the threat from ObamaCare, the Democrats are pounding the table about the threat to Medicare, and voters are jittery about how it’ll shake out. To toss government “secret agents” into the mix makes things more volatile. They’ll revisit this circa 2014, once there’s more certainty about which way health-care reform is headed and public disgruntlement about wait times to see a doctor is starting to grow. There’s precedent for it, in fact: Ed suggested yesterday that secret shoppers are a hallmark of private industry, not federal inspectors, but the DOJ does use them in limited circumstances to police for discrimination, most notably in the realm of housing. Their mandate in that case is the Fair Housing Act; for doctor-snooping, it’ll be ObamaCare and/or Medicare/Medicaid, once they’re amended to impose penalties on doctors who refuse to treat people covered by the programs.

Here’s Mark Kirk lowering the boom on Sebelius and Obama on the Senate floor yesterday.