I’m placing Aetna, the giant health insurer, on my list of the most irresponsible corporations in America. Why? Because last summer Aetna falsely claimed it was pulling out of all but four of the 15 states where it was participating in Obamacare because it was losing money. That pullout has been used by Republicans to justify repealing the act. Just last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Aetna’s action proved how shaky Obamacare’s exchanges are.
Yesterday, a federal judge found Aetna had lied. Federal judge John D. Bates said Aetna pulled out of the exchanges in response to a pending federal antitrust suit to block its proposed $37-billion merger with Humana. Aetna threatened the pullout from states and counties where Aetna was making money but where the Justice Department thought the merger would produce unlawfully low levels of competition. By pulling out, Aetna wanted to make the government’s argument irrelevant. “The evidence provides persuasive support for the conclusion that Aetna withdrew from the on-exchange markets in the 17 complaint counties to improve its litigation position,” Bates wrote.
Aetna executives did everything possible to conceal their decision-making from the court -- discussing the matter on the phone rather than in emails, and by shielding what did get put in writing with the cloak of attorney-client privilege, a practice Bates found came close to “malfeasance.”
Bottom line: Aetna is partially responsible for jeopardizing the health coverage of more than 20 million Americans, so it could achieve a merger that would reduce competition and raise prices for consumers, and thereby improve shareholder returns and raise their executive’s pay.
If you have a health insurance policy with Aetna, you might want to consider switching to a responsible health insurer.