Aetna has just announced that it will be pulling out of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges in 11 of the 15 states where it has been participating. People who have wanted “Obamacare” to fail are rejoicing, using Aetna’s withdrawal as “evidence” that the exchanges don’t work and that Obamacare is entering the long-wished-for [but never real] “death spiral” that they hoped to create.
But Aetna’s motivation may not really be economic at all.
New reporting suggests that Aetna is exiting the ACA exchanges not because it’s not making [enough] money. In reality, the withdrawal may be a retaliation for the Department of Justice’s recent ruling against a proposed merger between Aetna and another insurance giant—Humana.
AlerNet is reporting that Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini sent a letter on July 5, 2015 to the Department of Justice. The letter included the following threat:
…his company would have “no choice” but to quit Obamacare if a planned merger with fellow insurance company, Humana, was blocked by the DOJ.
In Bertolini’s words: “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.” Bertolini went on to cite the, “additional synergies” offered by the merger as a bargaining chip for continuing to support Obamacare.
But the DOJ was having none of it and promptly rejected the request. Subsequently as we learned this week, Bertolini has stayed true to his word.
What the hell? The Affordable Care Act delivers a gift of millions of new, paying customers to Aetna and other health insurers—and, in return, gets threats and bullying?
Why do we bother with these people? It’s time to move on: Get these money-grabbing middlemen out of the way, and enact Medicare for All.