Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said his company is preparing for a potential "fiscal cliff" by entering contingency mode and considering either a hiring freeze or laying off some employees.
If the country does go off the so-called fiscal cliff, which refers to a perfect storm of upcoming tax increases and spending cuts, Bertolini predicted unemployment and healthcare cost trends each will increase one percentage point, CNBC reported.
"It's a bit like, you know, the 15th century castle gates closing during The Plague, if you think about it," Bertolini said on CNBC's Squawk Box, according to the Hartford Courant. "We're going to hope it goes by, and when it goes by, we'll then re-open the coffers and the food stores. We don't have the option of waiting any longer."
Bertolini also called on political leaders to set aside partisan differences to address the financial problems. "It is a superstorm, a financial superstorm that we need to get our head around," he said.
However, Bertolini said he's less hopeful that President Obama and Congress can reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff after last week's election, which continued a division of power among elected officials.
"Because, the arithmetic in Washington hasn't changed in any great shape or form, we now face the issue of 'Can this president and this Congress come together to fix the debt?'" Bertolini told Bloomberg. "Now would be the time for the president to convene the group, set the agenda, and don't let them out of the room until they have a deal."