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Aetna Sets The Record Straight

Readers Report


I am astounded that BUSINESS WEEK could so wrongly interpret Aetna's strategy ("Aetna's Brave Old World," Finance, Mar. 30). This strategy has been clearly and consistently articulated the same way for the past three years.

I am equally mystified as to how anyone could miss the point that the $1 billion acquisition of NYLCare, a managed-care company with 2.2 million members, represents "another important step in our strategy of continuing to grow our health business," as we stated in our Mar. 16 press release announcing the deal. To conclude otherwise defies all logic.

Abandoning our strategy would make no sense at a time when managed care, which meets the customer need for access to affordable, high-quality health care, continues to grow at double-digit rates. We were a leader in managed care prior to this acquisition, which unquestionably strengthens our position.

In addition, among the other numerous inaccuracies in your story is a serious misstatement of fact that is misleading to our customers: Far from having been sold, our annuity business is going strong, with more than $32 billion in customer assets under management at yearend 1997, up 23% over 1996.

Further, I never made the statement that "we are an insurance company." What I have said consistently is that since 1995, when we decided we could no longer be all things to all people, Aetna's strategy has been to focus on the two areas that matter most to people--their health and their financial security--and to be a leader in those businesses in the U.S. and

in selected international markets.

Richard L. Huber

President and CEO



Editor's note: The story misstated Aetna's strategy. We regret the error.Return to top


Your article "Locked out of the hospital" (Social Issues, Mar. 16) on health-care group purchasing organizations (GPOs) contains several implications relating to health-care worker safety, innovation, product quality, and trade practices. It suggests that there is only one company providing products that protect health-care workers against accidental infection, and that this small, "innovative" company is being locked out of the market, thereby denying hospitals the opportunity to protect patients and caregivers.

In reality, Becton Dickinson & Co. and numerous other companies develop and supply safety products to the market. In the case of Becton Dickinson, 29% of total U.S. revenue in fiscal 1997 for the three businesses offering "sharps" and related products came from the sale of safety products and services. Becton Dickinson, one of the largest companies in the medical technology industry, pioneered the development of safety products over 10 years ago.

The story describes an isolated problem that was experienced by Becton Dickinson last year with a prepared plated-media product, and it suggests that patients were potentially at risk. This was never the case. When this brief issue arose, our employees worked around the clock to ensure that hospitals received high-quality product supplied from a second Becton Dickinson plant.

Finally, the article refers to allegations that GPO contract negotiations unfairly restrict free trade. As in all our business dealings, Becton Dickinson's negotiations with Premier Inc. were entirely legal and ethical in every respect.

Clateo Castellini

President and CEO

Becton Dickinson & Co.

Franklin Lakes, N.J.Return to top

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