Aetna Joins Other Health Insurance CEOs in Declining to Refuse a Taxpayer Bailout Under ObamaCare

Denver, CO/Washington, D.C. – After quizzing from the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Justin Danhof, Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini on Friday joined other health insurance CEOs questioned by the National Center in refusing to pledge to reject a taxpayer bailout of his company should ObamaCare continue to fail to perform as advertised.

“When I asked Mr. Bertolini whether Aetna would reject any taxpayer money that may flow to the company through ObamaCare’s risk corridor provisions, he attempted to deflect the issue with a canned, wonky answer that talked about reinsurance provisions that had nothing to do with my question. However, in the end, his implication was clear that the company would of course take the money if it becomes available,” said Danhof. “It is a shame that an industry that lobbied for this monstrosity now has its major players poised to rip off the taxpayers – many of whom are seeing their premiums rise and choices decrease.”

Danhof continued: “I attempted to get Mr. Bertolini off of his prepared script by asking him a follow-up question about the company’s future lobbying. Since the risk corridor provisions are set to expire in three years, I asked if the company would pledge to not lobby for their extension at that time. Bertolini did not make that commitment. Instead he said his goal was to personally work to make sure that this feature of ObamaCare works better and that taxpayer funds aren’t needed to keep it viable,” said Danhof. “However, the easiest way to remove the taxpayers from the equation is to do what we asked and not take the money in the first place.”

A complete transcript of the exchange between Danhof and Mr. Bertolini is here; an audio recording of the exchange is here.

The National Center’s David Hogberg, Ph.D., commented further: “When Mr. Bertolini said, ‘Should the exchanges attract mostly sicker people, these tools are necessary to help prevent large spikes in premiums, which create large spikes in subsidies,’ Mr. Bertolini suggested that the exchange might attract mostly sicker people, but the evidence shows that’s not a hypothetical anymore. Gallup surveys show that exchange enrollees report their health to be worse than most Americans. Additionally Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said that the 18-34 age group in its exchange plans had more medical claims that usual. This suggests taxpayers are on the hook for a big bailout this year, and it’s unfortunate that Aetna wouldn’t forego it.”

“In theory Mr. Bertolini is correct: the ObamaCare risk corridors exist to limit premium hikes,” said Hogberg. “In practice it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. So far we’ve seen that Ohio is set for an average premium increase of 13 percent next year, while Virginia and Washington state are facing increases just under 9 percent. It’s a testament to how badly designed this law is that even with the added taxpayer money from risk corridors, policyholders are facing big premium hikes.”

Dr. Hogberg added: “We asked about the risk corridors, but Mr. Bertolini seemed to give us an answer about both those and the reinsurance part of ObamaCare. Those are two different things. Risk corridors limit the profits and losses while reinsurance provides protection for insurers who enroll a lot of high-risk individuals.”

Danhof and Hogberg both have attended health insurer shareholder meetings this year, including Wellpoint, Humana, and now Aetna to ask about bailouts. So far, every health insurance company CEO has said his company will take bailouts. National Center President David Ridenour is attending UnitedHealth’s shareholder meeting in Las Vegas today, June 2. The National Center has also attended the shareholder meetings of all the major U.S. pharmaceutical companies this year, most recently, last week at Merck.

The National Center has attended 41 shareholder meetings so far in 2014 (8 of which are major health care companies) and 33 in 2013. It began attending shareholder meetings in 2007.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.