President Obama's claim that a Health IT "system" sanctioned and subsidised by the federal government will save $80 billion has been convincincly debunked.
So: Who's got an alternative? Wal-Mart, of course. Sam's Club, its warehouse operation for small businesses, counts about 200,000 physicians amongst its members. According to the executive in charge of the new line of business: "We're a high-volume, low-cost company, and I would argue that mentality is sorely lacking in the health-care industry."
That's putting it mildly! Sam's Club will be selling a combined hardware & software package to small physicians' practice for a price much lower than currently available (it claims).
How did Wal-Mart figure it could sell the package so cheaply? From experience in its convenient, retail clinics, where it has used the technology already. Here's another example of the benefits of innovation: Instead of competing against physicians, convenient clinics demonstrate the benefits of technology that physicians can then adopt!
Increased adoption of health IT is a stated objective of the Administration and the Congressional majority. So, what are they doing for Wal-Mart? Well, they've long supported the Employee "No" Choice Act, which would make it easier for union bosses to pressure workers into certifying a union without a secret vote. Plus, just last week the Equal Employment & Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined a lawsuit against Wal-Mart by a class of women alleging unfair discrimination in wages. President Obama's first signing was the Fair Pay Act, which skirts the constitutional prohibition on retroactive legislation.
This is not the blog to discuss all the negative consequences of these actions, which do not relate directly to health care. (Although a colleague has done so here.) Nevertheless, they will drive up costs and cost jobs at Wal-Mart, making it less likely that Sam's Club can supply health IT at the low prices it anticipates.
I guess the government just can't stand anyone getting in the way of the Beltway's vision of health IT – or society in general.