The cost of modernization

* Medicare could lose $140 million a year in interest if the Health Care Financing Administration reduces the number of days doctors must wait for payment for services. Currently, the average claim takes 18 days to turn around, even though more than 90 percent of all claims are handled electronically. A new system would cut that down to five days, but it also would reduce the interest Medicare earns while holding on to the money.

* Health care providers would have to invest in systems that are compatible with the government's - an increased business cost likely to be passed on to patients.

* Security breaches could increase because the system would provide immediate and unprecedented electronic access to claims.

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