Sunday, March 01, 2015

New York Times Shamefully Panders to Aetna's Management Style

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.



Anonymous said...

My wife is a seasoned meditator and says true metta means loving kindness for oneself AND others. It seems the Aetna leader is lost on the 'others' part in terms of his motivation. It would be interesting to see what he would say to the one sided aspect of his dealings and if he 'gives back'. I would like to know. Otherwise, it amounts to coffee table Buddhism.

Anonymous said...

As one who came from the land of togas and yogis my late father told me when the first. charlatan met the first group of gullible idiots the first yoga studio was started

Arvind Cavale said...

I wonder if Aetna can measure the common measures of anxiety in patients and physicians dealing with its policies!

Anonymous said...

I work/ volunteer with , mostly, single Mom families ! There is nothing like having a 39 year old women start to have misty eyes when she says - " I don't know what we are going to do --- my monthly premiums have gone up , co-pays in many cases and the cap - up !! " and, with the same coverage ! Not all of theses families, but , hundreds , in this one non- profit , are having this experience ! CPA input -- don't they realize that many of these families can't afford the increases ,,,AND, for sure can't pay a fine !!
Thank you for this I put about the compassionate Aetna company ( in all fairness -- somewhat created by DC ).

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like I have been transported to some Orwellian dystopia seeing the New York Times pander to a health insurance CEO. Only the Obama administration could orchestrate such a paradox. Ostensibly, anyone who favors Obamacare is a friend.

Who are the friends of Obamacare? The health insurance companies have benefited tremendously with soaring earnings and stock prices. The US Treasury is sending them checks for $3 billion.

The hospital corporations supported Obamacare along with the pharmaceutical companies and their stocks have propelled higher.

Finally, that leaves us with the doctors...well the groups that 'represent' the doctors such as AMA, ACC, ABMS, etc. These groups supported Obamacare. Yet, the doctors have been clobbered. As a physician who was previously autonomous, I am now an employee answering to a CEO.

So what happened to the physicians? It is obvious from reading other articles in this blog that the physician groups benefited at the expense of those that should be represented. More power has been transferred to the bureaucrats who have reinforced their control/power with more requirements to practice as a physician. This self fulfilling prophecy ensures relevancy. The Christine Cassel's of the world are rewarded with more titles and luxury condos while the grunt in the trench doctor is loaded down with never ending MOC modules. When CV mortality rates drop, when stent/ICD implantations drop, when readmission rates drop, etc, etc., it is because of Dr. Cassel's dedication correcting poor practice habits of uneducated physicians.

The prior CEO at the helm of the ACC during the Obamacare debate is now heading TCT with a seven figure salary.