Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini emphasized the importance of companies investing in its employees and the surrounding community during an event hosted by the Detroit Economic Club.
“If we’re going to make our cities and communities work, businesses need to step up,” Bertolini said. “We need to improve the ability of our individuals to enjoy their economy, make investments that make sense in our companies, but invest in our communities.”
Bertolini described the company’s “Social Compact,” which launched in 2015, and the impact it has had on Aetna associates.
In January 2015, the minimum hourly wage for U.S. employees was raised to $16 an hour – creating higher wages for about 5,700 employees. The company also launched an enhanced benefits program, lowering out-of-pocket health care expenses for thousands of eligible U.S. employees.
In August 2016, the company announced a student loan repayment program. In January 2017, Aetna began making 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.
Equally important to investing in employees, Bertolini said, is helping the community. A person’s zip code is more important than their genetic code, Bertolini said, adding 60 percent of a person’s life expectancy is related to where they live.
“There are zip codes in Detroit, in Chicago, in Baltimore and in the Bronx where people have 15 to 20 years less life expectancy than the zip code down the street,” he said.
In 2016, Aetna launched the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. Fifty finalists across the United States are working to create measurable improvements to social determinants of health. The challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA), the National Association of Counties (NACo) and is administered by CEOs for Cities and will award $1.5 million in prizes.