In Good Company, Aetna, Mark T. Bertolini, hurricane harvey, value-based care

Aetna’s Bertolini talks future of health care

Jul 24 2017

People in the United States have lost hope over their health, according to Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini. The health care system in the U.S. is set up to fix people when they’re broken. The system doesn’t focus on a person’s quality of life or quality of health.

This is why Bertolini is transforming Aetna into a health company and wants to make people healthier.

“What we have is a break-fix operation called the health care delivery system that fixes broken people and by then it’s too late,” Bertolini said in a Yahoo Finance interview. “. . . A loss of hope and a system focused on fixing broken things creates this very high cost structure for us as a country that’s standing in the way of social determinants. We’re not investing in social programs; we’re waiting for people to be broken and fixing them.”


Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini during an interview with Yahoo Finance. | Photo courtesy of Yahoo Finance Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini during an interview with Yahoo Finance. | Photo courtesy of Yahoo Finance


In the interview, Bertolini spoke about a wide range of topics. From describing how two health crises affected the way he views health care to Aetna’s opioid stewardship and Social Compact with its associates, Bertolini talked about what he thought the future of health care looks like.


The cost of health care, Aetna’s commitment to fight the opioid epidemic

Bertolini likened buying health insurance to purchasing a warranty for a car and explained how the system should cater to each person’s needs and desires.

“Why don’t we say to people, ‘What is it about your health that gets in the way and how can we help you build a better quality of life?” Bertolini said. “And let us worry about how we finance it later on once we design the product you want.”

Bertolini also noted Aetna’s five-year goals to fight the opioid crisis. Aetna is aiming to reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing to members by 50 percent by 2022. The company is also aiming to increase evidence-based multi-modal approaches when treating members with chronic pain and using medication assisted therapy (MAT) for members with opioid use disorder by 50 percent by 2022.

Community health

A person’s life expectancy is better defined by their zip code, Bertolini said. Since 2015, Aetna has built 5,538 urban gardens across America to address the food desert issue. In 2016, the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge was launched by the Aetna Foundation. Fifty finalists are working to improve addressable determinants of health in their respective communities.

“This year alone, our Foundation will invest $2 million in communities around America doing these kinds of programs to get close to the community, understand how people live and so we know what we can do to make their lives a little different.”

Aetna’s Social Compact

Aetna’s Social Compact launched in 2015 and includes wage increases, enhanced benefits and innovative wellness programs.

In 2015, Aetna raised the minimum wage of it’s U.S. employees to $16 an hour after employees participated in a mindfulness study and wrote in a journal how their quality of life was a stressor, Bertolini said. The company also pays employees for getting a good night’s sleep.

Aetna increased tuition assistance to $5,000 a year. And in 2016, the company announced a student loan repayment program, matching loan contributions up to $2,000 a year with a lifetime maximum of $10,000 for full-time employees. Part-time employees, Aetna matches contributions of $1,000 a year with a lifetime maximum of $5,000.

“This whole idea of dealing with a social ecosystem is more about moral authority than formal authority. It’s about mission. It’s about people, planet and then profits,” Bertolini said about why companies should support its employees. “. . . You can do good and do well.”

The need for a bipartisan fix

Bertolini acknowledged the Affordable Care Act is struggling, but emphasized it’s because it hasn’t been changed for seven years.

“If we want to get this right, we should fix it. It should be a bipartisan fix,” he said.

He explained there needed to be financial stability and a way to encourage younger people to buy health insurance.

“Do those two things in concert with the Medicaid expansion and expect it to cost less because we have 70 million people in the program in seven years from now,” Bertolini said. “And make sure we show results and are improving the quality of life and quality of care and reducing costs going forward.”

Listen to a podcast of Bertolini’s full interview with Yahoo Finance on the future of health care.