A Burden Too Heavy to Bear

Insurance companies face the staggering cost of AIDS

Never insure a burning house, warns an old adage much quoted in the $930 billion U.S. insurance industry. Now many of the nation's 2,000 or so commercial insurance firms are brandishing that slogan in a new kind of fire fight: the battle over who should pay the spiraling health costs for victims of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Insurance regulators and special-interest lobbyists argue with increasing fervor that the companies that cover some 140 million Americans must shoulder a greater part of the growing AIDS load. For their part, insurance executives complain that one of their industry's fundamental principles, the right...