Fred Schulte, writing for the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, worked to understand the math needed to attach a $19 billion cost estimate to an electronic medical records program with a $30 billion to $45 billion price tag. The difference will theoretically be made up by the billions of dollars saved by the resulting reductions in federal health care spending, but Schulte talks to experts who say there is no concrete evidence that these hypothetical savings will ever occur.
Steve Findlay, a Consumers Union health policy analyst who sits on a federal advisory panel on electronic medical record standards, agreed that “nobody knows” whether savings will be realized. “I think that everybody ought to stop guessing at how much money we will save. There’s no way to know,” he said. “It’s an impossible calculation. Everybody should stop trying to predict it.”
In other words, folks should think twice before quoting the administration’s $19 billion estimate. At this point, trying to guess any number other than actual cost is an imprecise exercise fraught with peril.