Who is Judy Faulkner? Chances are, you don't know her -- but her politically connected, taxpayer-subsidized electronic medical records company may very well know you. Top Obama donor and billionaire Faulkner is founder and CEO of Epic Systems, which will soon store almost half of all Americans' health information.
If the crony odor and the potential for abuse that this "epic" arrangement poses don't chill your bones, you ain't paying attention.
As I first noted last year before the IRS witch hunts and DOJ journalist snooping scandals broke out, Obama's federal electronic medical records (EMR) mandate is government malpractice at work. The stimulus law provided a whopping $19 billion in "incentives" (read: subsidies) to force hospitals and medical professionals into converting from paper to electronic record-keeping systems. Penalties kick in next year for any provider who fails to comply with the one-size-fits-all edict.
Obamacare bureaucrats claimed the government's EMR mandate would save money and modernize health care. As of December 2012, $4 billion had already gone out to 82,535 professionals and 1,474 hospitals; a total of $6 billion will be doled out by 2016. What have taxpayers and health care consumers received in return from this boondoggle? After hyping the alleged benefits for nearly a decade, the RAND Corporation finally admitted in January that its cost-savings predictions of $81 billion a year -- used repeatedly to support the Obama EMR mandate -- were, um, grossly overstated.
Among many factors, the researchers blamed "lack of interoperability" of records systems for the failure to bring down costs. And that is a funny thing, because it brings us right back to Faulkner and her well-connected company. You see, Epic Systems -- the dominant EMR giant in America -- is notorious for its lack of interoperability. Faulkner's closed-end system represents antiquated, hard drive-dependent software firms that refuse to share data with doctors and hospitals using alternative platforms. Health IT analyst John Moore of Chilmark Research, echoing many industry observers, wrote in April that Epic "will ultimately hinder health care organizations' ability to rapidly innovate."
Question: If these subsidized data-sharing systems aren't built to share data to improve health outcomes, why exactly are we subsidizing them? And what exactly are companies like Faulkner's doing with this enhanced power to consolidate and control Americans' private health information? It's a recipe for exactly the kind of abuse that's at the heart of the IRS and DOJ scandals.
As I reported previously, a little-noticed HHS Inspector General's report issued last fall exposed how 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). And no one is actually protecting private data from fraud, theft or exploitation.
But while health IT experts and concerned citizens balk, money talks. Epic employees donated nearly $1 million to political parties and candidates between 1995 and 2012 -- 82 percent of it to Democrats. The company's top 10 PAC recipients are all Democratic or left-wing outfits, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (nearly $230,000) to the DNC Services Corporation (nearly $175,000) and the America's Families First Action Fund Democratic super-PAC ($150,000). The New York Times reported in February that Epic and other large firms spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for the Obama EMR "giveaway."
Brandon Glenn of Medical Economics observes "it's not a coincidence" that Epic's sales "have been skyrocketing in recent years, up to $1.2 billion in 2011, double what they were four years prior."
It's also no coincidence, as a famous Democratic presidential candidate once railed, that the deepest-pocketed donors "are often granted the greatest access, and access is power in Washington." That same candidate, Barack Obama, named billionaire Democratic donor Faulkner as the only industry representative on the federal panel overseeing the $19 billion EMR "incentives" program from which her company benefits grandly.
The foxes are guarding the Obamacare henhouse. The IRS vultures are circling overhead. The shadow of tyranny and the stench of corruption are unmistakable. If you see something, say something. BOLO is our watchword.
Washington Examiner Columnist Michelle Malkin, author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies," is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.