Old Time Politics: About those health care savings ... Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Perhaps, somehow, amid the flurry of promises the presidential candidates have been throwing out there like confetti at a World Series parade, you remember this one:
Obama says his health care plan will garner large savings – $120 billion a year, or $2,500 per family – with more than half coming from the use of electronic health records. And he says he’ll make that happen in his first term.
So, says Obama, if we do it his way, each family out there will save $2,500 because of it. And most of that, per Obama, is tied into the use of electronic health records. That alone, per his campaign, will save $77 billion a year.
Well, FactCheck.org begs to differ. About those electronic records and that $77 billion savings and the promise to have it all done in his first term - not quite:
Obama cites a RAND study that found widespread use of electronic health records could save up to $77 billion a year in overall health care spending. But the study says that level of savings won’t be reached until 2019, when it projects 90 percent of hospitals and doctors would be using electronic records systems.
It should be noted that the electronics records push has nothing whatsoever to do with an Obama initiative. This is something which has had bi-partisan support for some time. Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton teamed up on this in 2005 for heaven sake.
To recap - no $77 billion savings until at least 2019, and not an Obama initiative.
So what about that $2,500 savings he's promising each family?
Obama says he’ll "lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year” by investing in electronic health records as well as other efforts. But his adviser tells us that $2,500 figure includes savings to government and employers that could, theoretically, lead to lower taxes or higher wages for families – so we shouldn't necessarily expect insurance premiums that are "lower" by that amount.
Ooohhhh ... so its a theoretical savings. I have to wonder if the Texaco station down the road will let me theoretically fill my tank with it when I receive those theoretical savings.
Maybe its just me, but this sure doesn't sound like any "new politics" to me. Sounds much more like the same old thing that I've seen for decades - promises which are nothing more than the old smoke and mirrors show, designed to be flashy enough to get the user what he desires, but to be forgotten or denied when those he has used demand he deliver on the promise.
From a background in healthcare software, I’d day the 2019 figure for the savings is optimistic. It’s not obvious who will develop such software, what technology it will be based on, how it can span all the multiple specialities in medicine, how it will achieve widespread usage, whether we can create a user interface that risk-averse doctors will actually use, or even who would own the software.
I’d bet long odds that Obama is thinking government would develop, own, and mandate usage of the software. And I will put a hundred dollar bill on the table right now and say that no government initiative to develop software that wide-ranging and complex will *ever* be successful. They wasted four billion writing software to manage the IRS and ended up throwing it all away. And we have the various attempts to create new air traffic control systems. Those development efforts are trivial compared to what it would take to develop the system Obama describes.