HEALTH CARE REFORM AND SOFTWARE COMPANIES…. Barack Obama is right that our health care system is so wasteful and poorly organized that it is possible to lower costs, expand access, and raise quality all at the same time — and even have money left over at the end to help pay for other major programs. He’s also right that to achieve these reforms the health care industry must join the 21st century and computerize its medical records — and indeed there is $20 billion in the stimulus package to pay for it.

Unfortunately, that $20 billion is likely to be squandered on buggy, inadequate proprietary software sold by the very companies that lobbied for the money, unless the Obama administration takes decisive action to promote the adoption of better-quality “open source” health IT. So reports Phillip Longman in his tour de force cover story in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly.

Done right, digitized health care could help save the nation from insolvency while improving and extending millions of lives at the same time. Done wrong, it could reconfirm Americans’ deepest suspicions of government and set back the cause of health care reform for yet another generation.

Read Longman’s story, “Code Red,” here.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.