No Plan B for healthcare reform?

At press time, big questions were being raised about the viability and scope of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration announced it would delay for one year the requirement that larger employers offer healthcare to their people or else face penalties; at least half the states seemed likely to reject expanding Medicaid; and as many as 30 states were refusing to set up health insurance exchanges. Those who opposed healthcare reform were hoping for a breakdown of the law and a return to the status quo. Supporters remained committed to reform, and hoped the law could help bring it about.

Ted Almon, president and CEO of Claflin Co., an independent medical distributor in Warwick, R.I., recently contributed an op/ed piece to Repertoire, a publication for medical products distributors, and a sister publication to the Journal of Healthcare Contracting. He concludes that the Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, but the alternatives are worse.
Almon is a past chairman of the Health Industry Distributors Association, serves on the HIDA Advocacy Council, and is an active participant in the Rhode Island healthcare scene. He originally wrote the piece for Providence Business News, who published it in June. Here are a few excerpts.

“Back in the 90s, the Clinton administration attempted sweeping reform of a system that even then was escalating in cost at an alarming rate,” he writes. “The Clinton plan was called ‘managed competition,’ or unofficially, Hillarycare. I didn’t think it would work, and I actively advocated against it….

“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.”

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, says Almon. “But it does contain several powerful elements of reform….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 20 years should have taught us.

“Reform is difficult, even if everyone is on the same side,” he writes. “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 rollout. So if you are hell bent on defeating Obamacare, you could well be successful. But your reward will be another 20 years of costs spiraling out of control. Can we afford that? I think we should decide we CAN make it work.”

How about you?

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.