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The debate over funding for Rhode Island’s successful health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI, just doesn’t seem to go away. I have written in support of the exchange on several occasions in the past, summoning the most pragmatic business arguments I could muster. To me, the exchange is akin to other technology solutions we often invest in for our business to operate more efficiently. Yes, they cost money up front, but they ultimately provide savings through enhanced productivity.
Medical Supplies Distributor. Medical and Surgical products. Claflin is a pioneer of Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory techniques, serving physicians, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics of New England since 1817
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Consumers, behavioral health practitioners, and public health leaders have been left out of the top-down discussions on how to bend the medical cost curve, such as the recent forum sponsored by the R.I. Public Expenditure Council and the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
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Thinking about upgrading your shelving systems? DIY isn't always the best answer- read our latest blog to find out why: 
When you are preparing to undergo a major, or even minor, capital equipment installation/setup such as wire shelving, it might be tempting to take the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to save money. However DIY is often not always the fastest or the safest solution.
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It’s not if, rather how to make health care reform work

It strikes me we find ourselves in a similar situation with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We can’t make it work when one side really doesn’t want it to work.
There have been efforts to reform our health care system going back to Teddy Roosevelt’s time. There always seems to be consensus on the need for reform, but one has to wonder… does everyone really agree we have to change such a large part of our economy?
One suspect group would have to include me, people who make money off the system as it is now. My company sells medical equipment and supplies and has grown successfully for many years. So why do I support fundamental and systemic reform?
Medical Supplies Distributor. Medical and Surgical products. Claflin is a pioneer of Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory techniques, serving physicians, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics of New England since 1817
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Medical Supplies Distributor. Medical and Surgical products. Claflin is a pioneer of Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory techniques, serving physicians, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics of New England since 1817
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Have them in circles
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The Claflin Company

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TED ALMON: HEALTHSOURCE RI STILL A BARGAIN 

The debate over funding for Rhode Island’s successful health insurance exchange, HealthSource RI, just doesn’t seem to go away. I have written in support of the exchange on several occasions in the past, summoning the most pragmatic business arguments I could muster. To me, the exchange is akin to other technology solutions we often invest in for our business to operate more efficiently. Yes, they cost money up front, but they ultimately provide savings through enhanced productivity.
Evidently, what I missed was that political entities like Rhode Island don’t always operate like a business. Since ours is a private enterprise, when I decide as CEO on a capital investment, I am only spending the owners’ money. When I advocate an investment by the state, I am talking about spending the taxpayers’ money.
So let me reframe my argument in that context, with apologies if I may have seemed presumptuous or taken with the weight of my own logic in the past. I still think that having control of our own health insurance exchange is a critical element of containing the cost of health care in our state, which could be an essential ingredient of future economic development.
For businesses in our state, as well as those who might consider moving or expanding here, the cost of providing health benefits to employees far exceeds energy costs, state taxes, regulatory compliance and virtually all other business expenses. If we can figure out how to do it for less, well, the implications for business development should be obvious.
Recently, some — including House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello — have suggested that Rhode Island might simply defer to the federal government’s exchange, the previously much maligned Healthcare.gov, presumably as a way of saving money for the state. It is responsible to consider this strategy, of course, but very little has been said about the actual cost comparison, not to mention whether, after having spent nearly $150 million to build HealthSource RI, the Feds would even allow us to just walk away from using it.
Lest anyone think otherwise, the cost to the state of using the federal exchange would not be free. While the formula for what we would be charged is a bit convoluted, and some assumptions about enrollment are necessary, the 
best estimates of policy experts I know come in at around $17 million per year.
One rather obvious compromise idea would be to simply set the budget for HealthSource RI at an equal amount, at least until such time as either the exchange can come up with an alternative funding plan, or is able to clearly demonstrate the savings value of its programs.
By almost any standard, HealthSource RI has been a resounding success. Enrollment has exceeded expectations, and despite dire warnings by opponents to the contrary, the cost of plans has been below estimates. The website and its elaborate support structure work as they are supposed to.
By intention and design, though, HealthSource RI is much more than a mere convenience to consumers who use it. It is potentially the most powerful tool yet devised to influence payment reform in our health-care system, and payment reform is nearly universally acknowledged as the key to bending downward the inexorable cost curve we have endured for decades. If it costs taxpayers no more than the only alternative, it is hard to imagine this debate isn’t over — but my guess is it won’t be.
I don’t think it is too cynical to suggest balking at the cost of HealthSource RI merely provides convenient cover to those whose real objections are more self-serving or ideological than practical. Disruptive technology like HealthSource RI always threatens some who are invested in the status quo. Then too, there will be predictable yelping from the small-government advocates, although HealthSource RI, like the currently successful Beacon Mutual Insurance Co., which sells workers’ compensation insurance, need not be an instrument of government.
There is value, I think, in flushing critics into the open where their real positions can be assessed on their own merits. Allowing them a pat position like “we simply can’t afford it” mires one of our most important economic development reform efforts in pointless demagoguery.
If our state’s leaders really want to save taxpayer money, I would suggest they consider how to get all the public employees into HealthSource RI. Ted Almon is the president and CEO of Claflin Co., a medical equipment and supply company in Warwick, a member of the expert advisory committee of HealthSource RI, and co-chair of the reform advocacy group HealthRIght
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On Nov. 4, we will all face the decisions that a national election presents. Most of us make up our minds about candidates by their positions on the issues that are important to us. For those who are concerned about health care, our coverage, our costs, and the quality of our health-care system, this may be a confusing and difficult election.
I say this because of the amazing amount of conflicting information that is out there on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Let’s start with a rare point of agreement between the sides. The rollout of the federal government’s health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov certainly wasn’t a technical success. But now that it has been revamped and is operational, what sort of results is it really producing?
While some seem fixated on telling us the rollout of Obamacare has been a disaster, the actual facts are that enrollment is above expectations, costs are lower than expected, and the number of Americans without insurance has dropped sharply. Did you know that?
I serve on the board of one of our local hospitals. It is a volunteer position with often intense responsibilities. Hospital costs make up about 40 percent of what we spend on health care, by far the largest single segment.
Until this year, Obamacare’s first as a functioning system, Rhode Island’s hospitals have been deeply stressed for nearly a decade. Rhode Island has 10 private acute-care facilities. Two actually slipped into receivership, a form of bankruptcy — fiscal collapse or failure, insolvency. Three of our hospitals are now the property of for-profit hospital chains operated from far-off California.
We will have to reserve judgment on the outcome of these changes, but I think it is safe to say the hospitals all would have liked to remain under local control. Their travails were largely caused by a cost spiral in what is called uncompensated care, or treatment they are mandated to provide to those without insurance coverage who are unable to pay.
Last fiscal year, according to the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, our hospitals amassed an operating deficit of about $50 million. This year, they achieved a remarkable turnaround, with a surplus of about the same amount. This $100-million swing is remarkable and a welcome change to those who care about having a hospital conveniently located in their community.
These results aren’t from simply throwing government money at the problem. While access to Medicaid has indeed been expanded, the rates that Medicare reimburses hospitals in the state are set to be slashed by $700 million in the coming decade. So while uncertainty remains, it is clear that meaningful and apparently effective reform is indeed taking place.
The latest issue of the Hospital Association’s Tracking Trends newsletter poses the intriguing question: “Did the ACA heal hospitals?” It notes that it was only in January of this year that patients could enroll in health plans offered by the insurance exchanges of the ACA. It was the first time many patients ever had access to affordable coverage. In a short nine months our hospitals and much-revised health system are operating more efficiently and on a sound fiscal basis. Noting the many innovative payment reforms between providers and insurers in the state that have arisen from the reform law, the article concludes about the ACA, in bold type, “More Rhode Islanders are able to afford [high] quality health care.”
I am an independent voter with concerns about the many issues facing our country at this turbulent time. The horrors of war and the terrifying outbreak of the Ebola virus are certainly prominent in my thoughts this election season.
It seems to me that the Republican Party as a whole has misled us about a fundamental issue, the essential reform of our unsustainable health-care system. The Democrats, on the other hand, may have stumbled in execution but have had the courage to address the issue and pushed forward a reform plan with much promise and very encouraging early success.
Ted Almon (tedalmon@claflin.com) is president and CEO of Claflin Co., in Warwick, a distributor of medical equipment and supplies. He is co-chairman of the reform advocacy group HealthRIght.
On Nov. 4, we will all face the decisions that a national election presents. Most of us make up our minds about candidates by their positions on the issues that are important to us. For those who are concerned...
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 This week Dave and Mark talk with Claflin Company President & CEO Ted Almon, a veteran advisor on state health care policies, including the development of the state health insurance network. They discuss how Rhode Island’s health insurance exchange looks as we get closer to the deadlines laid out in the Affordable Care Act.
Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy joins Rhode Island Public Radio's Dave Fallon for a weekly business segment we're calling "The Bottom Line."
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Why we must save HealthSource RI

Stopping HealthSource RI, Rhode Island’s uniquely successful health insurance exchange, to save money would be like stopping your watch to save time. Let me explain briefly why this new intransigence to provide adequate funding to the exchange is utterly foolish.
I realize our state budget is tight this year, but some critics are simply threatened by the exchange or ideologically opposed to reform in general, or “Obamacare” in particular. Some of the most ardent ones depend on the status quo for their income. They are seizing on the unfortunate juxtaposition of the HealthSource RI funding request and the budget shortfall to eviscerate the reform movement in Rhode Island by cutting out its heart. Let’s take a breath here before we kill something we just spent tens of millions to build before we even try to see if it will work.in such knee-jerk fashion.
Medical Supplies Distributor. Medical and Surgical products. Claflin is a pioneer of Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory techniques, serving physicians, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics of New England since 1817
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Medical Supplies Distributor. Medical and Surgical products. Claflin is a pioneer of Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory techniques, serving physicians, hospitals, IDNs, and clinics of New England since 1817
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Attitude is important in Health Reform too

TedAlmon
Monday, June 17, 2013 - 10:21
Providence Business News
June 4, 2013
Guest Column by Ted Almon

It was Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” His wisdom has an amazing array of applications I can think of and our current effort to overhaul the #healthcare system is certainly one.

Back in the 90’s the Clinton administration attempted sweeping reform of a system that was even then escalating in cost at an alarming rate. The Clinton plan was called Managed Competition, or unofficially-- Hillarycare. I didn’t think it would work and I actively advocated against it in much the same way many critics of the ACA or Obamacare are so vehemently resisting today. What I didn’t realize then, was that our victory over #Hillarycare would sentence us to 20 more years of the dysfunctional status quo. Two decades more of health premiums rising at twice the rate of inflation, and a healthcare system growing ever further from meeting the needs of patients. Grudgingly over time I came to realize that in our well-meaning zeal to get reform right, we had shot ourselves in the foot. The same is true now I’m afraid. It is Obamacare or the status quo. There is no Plan B.

Many #Obamacare detractors favor a more market based, less government controlled system. So did I back in the 90’s. So what happened to the omnipotent but invisible hand of the markets in which we all had such faith? Over time I slowly came to realize that healthcare is a social program that simply can’t be made to heel to normal consumerism. For one thing we have a federal law in this country requiring all hospitals to treat anyone who shows up in their Emergency department regardless of their ability to pay. That law was signed by the patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan. A system that says we are going to treat everyone but not make everyone pay is just not a business. I’m sorry.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect either, there are plenty of things to question in its copious pages, but it does have several powerful elements of reform. Health Insurance Exchanges are one. You see, today’s Republicans insist on preserving commercial insurance as the financing mechanism for healthcare. With the expansion of coverage to near universal scope, it is a terribly clumsy tool for the job. Health insurers can only compete on their margin, administrative costs and profits which make up only about 20% of premiums. The rest is medical costs they pay to healthcare providers, but the system is so fragmented that no insurer has the leverage to drive reform back down through the delivery system by changing the way we pay providers. Nor do they really have much incentive to do so. As essentially a cost plus business, they actually benefit from rising costs. The health insurance exchanges set up by Obamacare serve to consolidate the financing of care through a single channel so as to create the market leverage necessary to effect real payment reform. Healthcare professionals know that will transform the delivery system quickly and in a most meaningful way. It simply won’t happen any other way, as the past twenty years should have taught us.

So let’s get back to Henry Ford’s insight. Last week the nascent California insurance exchange announced its first round of premium bids from the dozens of insurers there. To many the rates were surprisingly low in light of the gothic predictions from some insurers and their actuaries. ACA supporters were jubilant and the New York Times ran several positive columns celebrating what appeared as an early success. It didn’t take long for opponents to react. Forbes ran several angry columns denouncing the low rates as misleading and even an “apples and oranges” comparison to existing premiums there, saying the Obamacare exchange rates were far higher, just as they had predicted. The truth is the rates will be higher for some, but they will also be lower for others as the ACA compresses the existing rate bands insurers can use to set premiums. And the comparison IS apples and oranges because the existing rates aren’t available to everyone, but the ACA/Obamacare rates are. It is easy to offer low rates if you can select only healthy customers.

But my point is this. What are we doing? Reform is difficult even if everyone is on the same side. The ACA will surely need to be tweaked as implementation moves along. It won’t be able to overcome such obstinate resistance at every stage of its roll out. So if you are hell bent on defeating Obamacare, you could well be successful. But your reward will be another twenty years of costs spiraling out of control. Can we afford that? I think we should decide we CAN make it work.
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Have them in circles
26 people
Dan Almon's profile photo
Ted Almon's profile photo
Steve Moran's profile photo
Elie De Jesus's profile photo
John Gillen's profile photo
Alin Oroszi's profile photo
Logi D's profile photo
Thinker Trading Academy - Medical Stocks's profile photo
Krystina Militello's profile photo
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Introduction
On behalf of the employees and management of The Claflin Company, we would like to welcome you to our website. It is a credit to the dedication of our employees and customers that we continue to flourish after almost two centuries of business. Claflin is extremely proud to be recognized by the Health Industry Distributors Association as the oldest member firm in that venerable organization. Our company is equally proud of its designation as the healthcare distribution industry’s first ISO 9002 Certified firm, which we achieved in February of 1998. ISO 9000 registration is the international standard of quality in process control and requires a sustained, audited program of improvement and documentation which is unmatched in our field. .