Prepared Remarks of Ronald A. Williams, Aetna Chairman and CEO

Industry Spokesman at White House Meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mr. President, Secretary Sebelius:

We are pleased to be with you today. We share a common purpose: to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance, regardless of their medical conditions.  Our companies are successful only when they return to the families and employers we serve the maximum value for their hard-earned health care dollars.

Our industry supports—and in fact proposed—many of the insurance reforms that both parties have suggested, and we support taking the bureaucracy out of health care. For example, our company has invested more than $2 billion dollars to ensure that every one of our members has a secure personal health record.  I know that other companies at this table also have made significant investments, We want the insurance market to work for everyone and it can if we get at the soaring medical costs that are making insurance ever more expensive.

Many experts in health care agree that the leading legislative proposals do not bend the health care cost curve in the right direction. Just last week Warren Buffett said, let me quote: “Insurance isn't the problem, the problem is at the point of care" ... That [insurance] isn't the reason that health care is at 17 percent of GDP." ... "The reason is that we're doing an awful lot of things we don't need to do... we have payment for procedures and not payments for results.” We agree with Warren and hope that reform will do more to address these issues.  Insurance rates are too high for too many, but that’s because the underlying costs are rising at double-digit rates that are unsustainable.

We have a lot to offer to make the system work better. We have a long relationship with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. We have worked collaboratively to try to make markets work better and be more transparent.  We want to work with all parties involved in this reform effort and hope you will assume our positive intent. We are as concerned as you are about premium rate increases. But if you want to control our prices, then you have to control those prices being charged by suppliers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, doctors and others as well.

Thank you and we look forward to a constructive discussion.