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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Don't blame insurers for health crises


Your voice: John H. Grever

I take exception to the "Your voice" column "No way out of the health care maze" (April 27) about health insurance companies. I question the author's conclusions, not her facts or her family's tragic history. I can only express my sympathies to her and her family.

She took health insurers to task, and suggested imposing controls on them. With limited exceptions, insurers do not make the rules. Insurers react to changes and requirements of society, and by law, must be fair to all.

If you bought a car, drove it for three months, then asked the manufacturer to add premium stereo, what do you think will happen? When you buy an insurance policy, and then want something beyond the policy scope, isn't this the same thing?

While some insurers are run better than others, their goal is like Ford, GM or Toyota - trying to earn a dollar, and usually getting less of a return on invested capital.

I acknowledge there are problems with special and unique health problems and surgeries. Insurers are an easy target because they don't fight back. But the problem is beyond insurers and won't be solved by chastising them. The proper path to a solution has yet to be found.

Experimental surgery today is standard tomorrow. I had cataract surgery two years ago. Fifty years ago cataract surgery would require seven to 10 days in a hospital, and more at home. I had lunch at Frisch's the same day.

Today's problem is partly that medicine is advancing at a breakneck pace; society and insurers can't keep up. Federal laws increase cost. Medical costs increase because of new equipment, new drugs, far more advanced and thorough testing, tougher standards, incredible training - some costs pay back research investment. Then estimate the cost of malpractice insurance for experimental surgery.

Large problems like experimental medical care need to be shared with government, working cooperatively with industry (and insurers), easing the experimental into mainstream medicine.

Like the column's author, I want the best medical care for my family and myself. I hope we push the envelope and pursue experimental treatments until medicine is routinely able to solve every illness or ailment.

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John H. Grever is senior vice president of the Walter P. Dolle Insurance Agency in downtown Cincinnati. He has 46 years of experience in insurance sales and consulting.

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