Aetna pulled out of Obamacare because CEO was angry his big merger got denied
Evidence has come to light that casts doubt on the right-wing talking point that Aetna insurance pulled out of the Obamacare healthcare marketplace because it was losing money.
According to Mother Jones magazine, the health insurer pulled out of the marketplace as a retaliatory move against the Obama administration — which refused to approve the healthcare giant’s proposed merger with another insurance company, Humana.
“(I)n a letter to the Department of Justice last month, they made a pretty explicit threat,” wrote Kevin Drum, “they would have ‘no choice’ but to cut back their Obamacare participation if they were unable to take advantage of the ‘synergies’ of the merger.”
Or, as Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young paraphrased at Huffington Post, “Give us our merger or we’ll quit Obamacare.”
In the letter from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini to the Justice Department, Bertolini threatened, “It is very likely that we would need to leave the public exchange business entirely and plan for additional business efficiencies should our deal ultimately be blocked.”
The letter — obtained by Huffington Post via a FOIA request — was dated July 5. Two weeks later, officials moved to fight the merger.
“[I]f the deal were challenged and/or blocked we would need to take immediate actions to mitigate public exchange and ACA small group losses,” Bertolini warned, then offered a potential carrot-on-a-stick if the Justice Department cooperated with him.
“By contrast,” he wrote, “if the deal proceeds without the diverted time and energy associated with litigation, we would explore how to devote a portion of the additional synergies…to supporting even more public exchange coverage over the next few years.”
In short, Aetna said it must be allowed to acquire Humana and if not, they would abandon the federal healthcare marketplace. But, if Bertolini got what he wanted, he would be happy to devote some of those resources to providing care for the underserved.