Aetna CEO Makes Single-Payer Health Care Statement That Has Some Furious

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The introduction and passing (in the House) of the American Health Care Act is having some surprising effects on the health care industry.

In a private meeting on Thursday, according to Vox, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said that he was open to debating a single-payer health care system. His comments came after an employee asked what he thought of reports saying that the AHCA was “paving the way to a single-payer system.”

‘In the news media, it is reporting that the Republican health plan is paving the way to a single-payer system. What are your thoughts on that, and how would it impact Aetna?’

Bertolini responded by first saying that he thinks single-payer is something that the nation should debate.

‘Single-payer, I think we should have that debate as a nation.’

He then went on to remind those in the meeting about Aetna’s history as “the first financial intermediary for Medicare.”

‘We cut the first check for Medicare in 1965 to Hartford Hospital for $517.57.’

Bertolini continued, explaining the kind of system he would be open to having a conversation about.

‘The industry has always been the back room for government. If the government wants to pay all the bills, and employers want to stop offering coverage, and we can be there in a public private partnership to do the work we do today with Medicare, and with Medicaid at every state level, we run the Medicaid programs for them, then let’s have that conversation.’

Bertolini was also careful to emphasize the fact that he doesn’t think the government alone should be in charge of providing the American people with health insurance.

‘Is the government really the right place to run all this stuff? And that’s the debate that needs to be had. They could finance it, and if there is one financer, and you could call that single-payer.’

He then emphasized the importance of getting “the costs right” and “getting people healthy,” two things that the AHCA does not seem to prioritize.

‘We’re going to pay for it one way or another. What we have to do is we have to get the costs right. We have to get people healthy. It’s not about who is paying the bill. It’s about what we’re doing to get the costs down. The Democrats are now saying that with the new Republican bill, wait there is nothing in here about getting costs down. That’s the point. And so that’s the place we’re headed as a company. It’s not just about paying the bills.’

After the news was leaked about Bertolini’s response, an Aetna spokesperson was quick to clarify that the company’s CEO was not “advocating for a single-payer system.”

Instead, the spokesperson explained in an email to Vox, he was:

‘Encouraging debate while pointing out that public-private partnerships have been the backbone of the more successful government health care programs (examples include administering Medicare Advantage or Medicaid managed care). In other words, partnering works when done the right way.’

According to a report from Reuters, Bertolini said again on Friday during an investor conference that he wants to have a debate about single-payer healthcare. However, he emphasized again that he thinks “government-run healthcare would be a bad idea.” He also criticized the Affordable Care Act, saying that the government’s recent attempt at running healthcare has not gone well.

Featured Image via Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images.