The Health Section

Aetna’s “Social Compact” continues to support employees

With a vision of building a healthier world, Aetna has made it a priority to care for its employees’ wellness, focusing on their physical, mental, social and financial health. While there is a sound business case for the changes announced in the past two years at the company, investing in its own people was also simply the right thing to do.

CEO and Chairman Mark T. Bertolini talked about Aetna’s efforts on a recent episode of ABC’s “20/20,” called “My Reality: A Hidden America.” The program detailed the dichotomy in America’s middle class: where some people receive perks at work and others struggle and have to make sacrifices to keep their jobs. Aetna was recognized as a leader among corporations in supporting employees through the “social compact” that was launched in 2015 that includes improved wages, enhanced benefits and innovative wellness programs.

As part of his interview with Diane Sawyer, Bertolini shared his thoughts on how corporations and their leaders can help address many of the issues raised in the program.

“Instead of waiting for the problems to go away, why don’t we step forward with some courage and conviction to make it better,” Bertolini said. “Let’s us, as a group of people, stand for something and say we’re going to do something about this.”

In January 2015, Aetna increased the minimum hourly wage for U.S. employees to $16 per hour. The change created higher wages for about 5,700 employees. The company also launched an enhanced benefits program that helped lower out-of-pocket health care expenses for thousands of eligible U.S. employees.

And in August 2016, Aetna announced a student loan repayment program. The student loan burden is increasing in the U.S. In 2012, the amount of student loans in the country past $1 trillion. The average amount of loan debt a student graduates with is $35,000.

Beginning in January 2017, the company will make matching loan payment contributions up to $2,000 a year with a lifetime maximum of up to $10,000 for full-time U.S. employees who graduated on or after Dec. 1, 2013. For part-time employees, Aetna will match contributions up to $1,000 a year with a lifetime maximum of $5,000.