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Flawed Push For Government-Run System A Bitter Pill For Aetna, City

May 20, 2007

A few weeks ago, state legislators celebrated Connecticut Insurance Day by lauding the impact our industry has on the state. Meanwhile, other legislators were quietly working to bring a government-run health insurance system to a vote before the General Assembly.

There clearly is a disconnect between words and actions at the state Capitol.

Aetna has called Connecticut home for almost 155 years. We pay more than $1 billion in wages and payroll taxes here each year. Recently, we announced an investment of $200 million in our corporate headquarters site in Hartford, showing faith in the vibrancy of the capital city and a willingness to contribute even more in local property taxes.

What is troubling is that some legislative leaders - working just a stone's throw from Aetna's corporate headquarters - would seek to diminish and perhaps dismantle private health insurers and endanger the jobs of our 7,200 employees, for a system with unproven results.

The pending legislation throws cold water on this longstanding history of support for both the state and local governments that we work with. We believe a government-run system could have serious negative implications for the people of Connecticut, for the state's economy and for its vibrant insurance industry.

Aetna supports the goal of providing all citizens with affordable, accessible, quality health care. We are working with hospital and business leaders on a proposal that will, if enacted, significantly increase access to health care for those now shut out of the system.

We are working with other leading national employers and legislators at the federal level. It is clear to us that the only workable solution is a public/private partnership. Moving forward with health care reform in Connecticut without recognizing the importance of the marketplace solutions that we bring to the table would be folly.

Perhaps most disappointing here in our home state is that we have expressed a willingness to be involved in this health care debate. Other states are not reluctant to seek our real-world insights. We were the first insurer to publicly support the concept of an individual insurance requirement - a concept that two years later is the law in Massachusetts and is being debated in at least eight other states.

A government-run system is a bad idea on many levels for Connecticut. It will do little to control escalating health care costs. Research shows that in locales where governments have tried to launch single-payer systems, consumers face long waits, rationing of care and a lack of medical innovation. In fact, some countries relying on a single-payer approach have begun incorporating private-sector solutions to control costs.

Aetna is committed to workable health care reform that better serves citizens while preserving the strength of the insurance industry in Connecticut. We are very disappointed that some legislators would look to dismantle this historic partnership, and we ask state leaders to work with us toward the goal of health care access for all.

Mark Bertolini is executive vice president and head of business operations for Aetna.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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