William Raspberry is wrong when he equates higher insurance rates for young male drivers with higher rates for people who test positive for the AIDS antibody {op-ed, Sept. 9}. If a teen-age male can't afford auto insurance, he can live without driving; but if a person who tests positive becomes ill and can't afford insurance, he must receive medical care. And if the individual can't pay for this care, then the bill will most likely be picked up by the government. Mr. Raspberry concludes that "it is the rest of us, not the insurance companies, who will be stuck with the cost." But the same is true of government-funded care; ultimately, we will all pay for the care of those who can't pay for it themselves.

Given a choice of paying for the care of AIDS patients through either higher taxes or higher insurance premiums, I would choose the latter. I believe that the insurance industry would be able to handle the care more efficiently than the government. Insurance companies, though not always ideal in their performance, have more experience in paying for health care, and no new federal programs or bureaucracies would be required.

The way to achieve this is to do what Mr. Raspberry opposed in his column: bar AIDS testing as a factor in setting insurance premiums, but at the national, rather than the local, level.


I applaud William Raspberry for his piece, but would like to add two points. First, for reasons that have never been clear to me, the insurance industry is one of the most maligned institutions in America. People fail to realize that insurance is just this: a mechanism set up to compensate individuals and organizations for unexpected losses. If losses can be predicted accurately on an individual basis, they are not unexpected. When insurance companies are forced to write policies that will probably result in claims, the insurance mechanism is replaced by a funds-transfer mechanism. All Americans pay the insurance companies, and a select group of people are compensated for their losses.

Second, when we do not have to accept individual responsibility for our behavior, we most definitely will not. A useful analogy is a condominium development. Those with central utility meters have utility bills far in excess of individually metered developments. The reason is obvious: if someone else is paying, I'll keep my lights and heat on forever. To a large extent, the same situation exists in insurance today, particularly in health insurance. If individuals are not forced to take responsibility for their unhealthy behaviors by paying appropriately adjusted rates, all of us will pay for their heart disease, cancer, motor vehicle accidents and emphysema.

With insurance rates going up 30 percent in this area, how long can America afford to be on a central meter? JOSEPH PADUDA Arlington