An editorial in the Wall Street Journal is critical of the new $20 billion Health IT portion of the US stimulus package. In particular, they are against full government control of standards and the bill’s privacy provisions:
Both the House and Senate stimulus bills include about $20 billion in incentive payments (mainly through Medicare and Medicaid) to encourage the digitization of medical records. Fair enough. But one of the reasons only an estimated 17% to 29% of doctors use health IT is because there are still many technical issues to work out. Different systems must be compatible so doctors can communicate with each other, coordinate care and share information — and they don’t want to invest in a platform that could become as obsolete as HD-DVD.
Democrats have decided that the way to jump this gap is for government simply to pick the next Blu-Ray. Instead of building on a voluntary public-private standard-setting body created by the Bush Administration, the stimulus bill codifies it as a federal office and gives it broad new powers if private companies are not “substantially and adequately” meeting the needs of doctors and hospitals. The health IT outfit will soon be deciding which platforms are up to code and shutting down competitors.
This will certainly muffle innovation, given that high-school dropouts have been known to scam U.S. health bureaucrats out of millions of dollars that should be preventable with off-the-shelf auditing software. Anyway, what’s the rush? Democrats give the game away by mandating that most medical providers who aren’t linked into the government-approved health information network after 2016 will start to be penalized. Their real political goal is to make a down payment on national health care.