Aetna’s Joseph Zubretsky

Heavy investment in technology goes straight to the company's bottom line, the CFO says. Plus: a pitch for national health insurance.

What improvements do you support?

We think the tax system is unfair. People who buy their coverage at the workplace can buy it with pretax dollars but in the individual marketplace they’re paying with after-tax dollars. That can be equalized. We believe that the safety net for individuals who can’t afford access to health care isn’t sufficient. And we really need to look at the current federal poverty levels at which people qualify for Medicaid and other federal programs.

What should be the role of the health-care industry in any reforms?

We think a public-private partnership, without upsetting the tried-and-true system of employer-sponsored health care, makes sense. Finding ways to make it easier for small groups of individuals to buy and afford health care [is a promising area].

If the employer-based system remains, what assurances do CFOs have that their health-care rates will stay in check?

Health-care insurance premiums are not the problem. The problem is health-care costs. And the studies all show that 70 to 80 percent of health-care costs are due to chronic conditions — many of which are due to lifestyle choices. In addition, approximately 30 percent of costs are actually inefficient or unnecessary. So we need to find ways to reduce the growth in health-care costs through the services we provide — disease management, wellness programs, and preventive procedures.

Can you give an example?

At Aetna, we have the same problem: our costs were trending at a rate that was just unacceptable. So we developed a consumer-driven program and made preventive, wellness, and coaching tools available. Employees can earn up to $600 by getting a health-risk assessment, getting into an exercise program, and [practicing] proper nutrition.

Are you a participant?

I’m pretty much a self-motivator. But I can see firsthand what being healthy can do and how fun [it can make] life.

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