A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Electronic Medical Records for Congress?


Q: Is the Social Security Administration paying $24 million to set up new electronic medical records for members of Congress?

A: False. The money is going to speed processing of applications for disability benefits. Furthermore, the money is coming from the stimulus bill and not from “withholding cost of living increases."

FULL QUESTION

Is this true?

THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION IS FUNDING TWENTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS– LET ME REPEAT THAT AMOUNT… SO YOU UNDERSTAND IT :
——————————————————————————–
$ 24,000,000.00 DOLLARS FOR NEW
ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS PROCESSING
FOR OUR CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS !!
——————————————————————————–
THEY ARE OBTAINING THESE FUNDS and I QUOTE DIRECTLY FROM THE SOCIAL SECURITY WEBSITE………… "THIS MONEY WILL BE COME FROM THE SAVINGS TO BE GENERATED FROM WITHHOLDING " COST OF LIVING INCREASES FOR 2010 & 2011 in SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR THE ELDERLY AND A $2.00 INCREASE ON ALL MEDICARE RX BENEFIT CO-PAY"

FULL ANSWER

Anonymous author? Check. Excessive use of capital letters? Check. Multiple exclamation marks? Check. These are just some of the classic tell-tale signs of false and misleading chain e-mails. And this one, which has been forwarded to us several times in recent weeks, is yet another case of a bogus Internet rumor.

The Social Security Administration announced earlier this year that it would be funding electronic medical records. That much is true. But the author of the e-mail is wrong about whom the records are for and how they are being financed.

"The only thing this e-mailer gets right is the amount," said Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. "This has absolutely nothing to do with members of Congress."

In August, the SSA announced the "availability of $24 million in contracts to provide the agency with electronic medical records to improve the efficiency of its disability programs." Hinkle said that the records will make the process easier for members of the public who are applying for disability benefits. The agency further explained the need for the electronic records in its August news release:

SSA, Aug. 7: Social Security is seeing a significant increase in disability applications as a result of the current recession. The agency expects to receive more than 3.3 million applications in fiscal year (FY) 2010, a 27 percent increase over FY 2008. To process these applications, the agency sends more than 15 million requests for medical records to health care providers. The use of health IT will vastly improve the efficiency of this process, which currently is largely paper-bound.

And the money to fund the program doesn’t come from the SSA "withholding cost of living increases," or a "$2.00 increase on all Medicare Rx benefit co-pay," as the e-mail claims that the Social Security Web site says. "Nowhere on our site does it say that," Hinkle said. "We’re not withholding anything." The SSA clearly stated in its press release that the $24 million in "contract opportunities announced today are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," which President Obama signed into law earlier this year.

Regular readers of FactCheck.org may have figured something wasn’t quite right about the e-mail’s claim about how the electronic records program is being funded. We previously explained in an Ask FactCheck item that the reason there won’t be a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in Social Security benefits in 2010 or 2011 is because the "official measure of the cost of living," the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), "has gone down, not up. And the major reason for that," we noted, "is that oil prices plunged from the peaks of the previous year." The lack of a COLA is not the result of anything done by the current Congress.

-D’Angelo Gore

Sources

Hinkle, Mark. Social Security Administration. Interview with FactCheck.org. 23 Nov 2009.

Social Security Administration. "Social Security to Fund $24 Million in Contracts for Electronic Medical Records." Press Release. 9 Aug 2009.

Jackson, Brooks. "Social Security COLA." FactCheck.org. 23 Sep 2009, accessed 23 Nov 2009.