Here's more evidence that government "cures" are inevitably worse than the "diseases" they seek to wipe out. Buried in the trillion-dollar stimulus law of 2009 was an electronic medical records "incentive" program. Like most of President Obama's health care rules, this top-down electronic record-sharing scheme is a big fat bust.
Oversight is lax. Cronyism is rife. The job-killing and privacy-undermining consequences have only just begun.
The program was originally sold as a cost-saving measure. In theory, modernizing record-collection is a good idea, and many private health care providers have already made the change. But as with many government "incentive" programs, the EMR bribe is a tax-subsidized, one-size-fits-all mandate. This one pressures health care professionals and hospitals across the country into radically federalizing their patient data and opening up medical information to untold abuse. Penalties kick in for any provider that hasn't switched over by 2014.
So, what's it to you? Well, $4 billion has already gone out to 82,535 professionals and 1,474 hospitals, and a total of $6 billion will be doled out by 2016. But the feds' reckless profligacy, neglect and favoritism have done more harm than good.
Don't take my word for it. A recent report released by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General acknowledged that the incentive system is "vulnerable to paying incentives to professionals and hospitals that do not fully meet" the program's quality assurance requirements. The federal health bureaucracy "has not implemented strong prepayment safeguards, and its ability to safeguard incentive payments postpayment is also limited," the IG concluded.
Translation: No one is actually verifying whether the transition from paper to electronic is improving patient outcomes and health services. No one is actually guarding against GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). No one is checking whether recipients of the EMR incentives are receiving money redundantly (e.g., raking in payments when they've already converted to electronic records). No one is actually protecting private data from fraud, abuse or exploitation.
Little is being done to recoup ill-gotten payments. In any case, such "pay and chase" policing after the fact is a crummy way to run government in lean times -- or in fat times, for that matter.