- Aetna has put itself forward as a leader in the future of health reform by advocating a focus--and highlighting the steps it is taking--toward supporting social programs to help improve people's quality of life.
- A new study funded by the Aetna Foundation and released in advance to U.S. News & World Report supports the company's position on attacking chronic disease through community projects that support healthy lifestyles, such as walkable neighborhoods and access to fresh foods.
- Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told U.S. News & World Report the company plans to demonstrate that health is less a matter of a person's healthcare, and more a matter of lifestyle.
Aetna's move has the potential to cast the company in a positive and progressive light as it weathers public scrutiny over its decision to drop most of its ACA business following a challenge from the Department of Justice against its high-stakes acquisition of Humana. Aetna has denied it made any ultimatum to the DOJ or that its strategy change was made in retaliation to the challenge.
The timing of the platform announcement also ties in with the presidential election, as Aetna takes advantage of the forward momentum to position its new focus as one to embrace with whatever refreshed take on healthcare reform comes with a new administration in 2017.
The ACA has not given social programs attention, Bertolini argued, suggesting the health law is flawed for focusing on increasing access to health coverage and healthcare, rather than investing in social programs that could help cut rates of obesity and other conditions.
Such results could be expected to prove advantageous to insurers, as well as to customers shouldering increasing cost-sharing, by reducing medical spending. In Bertolini's view, the U.S. is spending plenty on healthcare, but not spending it in the right ways.
The Aetna Foundation report details social service impacts on health factors such as mortality and cancer rates, based on data from 2008 to 2012--prior to the major provisions of the ACA. It suggested certain community investments can be tied to improved health, including physical activity, smoking cessation, employment, education, and parks and recreation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
This is not the Aetna Foundation's first focus on the subject. In 2015, it reported on health disparities based on zip codes, and its Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge provides grants to communities and organizations across the U.S.