January 20, 2013

The Jan. 15 editorial “The wrong prescription” highlighted an important example of how Washington could better manage taxpayer dollars.

In the “stimulus” bill, Democrats included incentive payments for health-care providers who use electronic health-record technology. I support the use of electronic health records, but as the editorial noted, it has to be done right. That is why Republicans offered an amendment to make the electronic health-records program accountable to taxpayers by demanding that no money be spent until standards were in place to ensure that systems used by different providers could “talk” with each other. Democrats defeated it.

As of today, nearly $10 billion has already been spent, but we appear no closer to interoperability. A recent survey of clinicians found that more than 70 percent of respondents reported “a lack of interoperability” as a major barrier that impairs them from sharing information in an electronic setting. Also of concern is that recent reports revealed that the electronic health- records program may lead to increased Medicare spending and greater inefficiencies.

Last fall, I called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stop spending money on incentives until interoperability standards are put in place. Unfortunately, the Obama administration remains more committed to spending than being accountable to taxpayers.

Dave Camp, Washington

The writer, a Republican from Michigan, is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.