In this morning's New York Times, David Gelles, writes a gushing piece on how Aetna is using meditation and mindfulness to "reshape his company's future."
Much of the article idealizes the management approach of Aetna's 58 year-old CEO, Mark T. Bertolini, and tugs at the heart strings of America by focusing on his near-death experience after an unfortunate ski accident he suffered in 2004. The crux of the article focused on how Mr. Bertolini became "enamored with yoga's intellectual and cultural history," and how "Mr. Bertolini found that difficult thoughts and emotions became easier to manage" with mindfulness techniques. He later expanded these practices to the rest of his employees on a voluntary basis, using metrics of heart rate variability and cortisol level measurement ("common measures of anxiety") to assess the efficacy of his programs to his company's bottom line. Most remarkable, Mr. Gelles implies that "productivity gains" and cost savings were attributed, in part, to his practices. In fact, if it weren't for these practices, we are told, he might "not have been inspired to act on his impulse" to raise their lowest paid employees salaries from $12 an hour to $16 dollars an hour as the "latest phase of Mr. Bertolini's grand experiment."
It is remarkable that any reporter, much less one from the New York Times, would attribute Aetna's windfall to mindfulness and meditation practices without even mentioning the impact that our new health care law and its higher premiums and co-pays has had to Aetna's bottom line. It doesn't take much digging to find in Aetna's own 2014 Investor Conference data that health care premiums have increased four times faster than inflation, employee costs are rising 50% faster than employer costs, and average deductibles to patients have increased over 50% in the past five years. Nor did Mr. Gelles even deem it important to mention that Mr. Bertolini made over $30 million dollars in compensation and benefits in just one year (2013) on the backs of Aetna's own customers as well.
There his a mindfulness practice called "Mettā" where practitioners chant "May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free from harm." Maybe Aetna and Mr. Gelles should practice a little "Mettā" on behalf of Aetna's customers rather than just for Aetna's bottom line.