Bertolini backs Buffett's view of healthcare as a 'tapeworm,' touts ZIP code approach with CVS

A stethoscope and paper money.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says investing in communities will help control healthcare costs that Warren Buffett described as a "tapeworm" on the U.S. economy. (Getty/utah778)

What do Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway agree on regarding healthcare? It's stranglehold on the economy. 

"Warren Buffett said healthcare is a 'tapeworm' on the U.S. economy. It's true," Bertolini said Monday on CNBC. Taming that tapeworm will require a shift towards community-focused health, he added. 

Bertolini was referencing Buffett's statement earlier this year when the Berkshire Hathaway CEO announced a healthcare venture with Amazon and JPMorgan. Buffett said he believes the private sector can have more success in lowering healthcare costs than the federal government.

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"Our companies are big, and yet we can still make things happen," he told CBNC last month. "We don't have bureaucratic problems or constituency problems that some others might, and we like we each other."

RELATED: Amazon teams up with Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase in technology-driven healthcare venture

He added that he hopes combining the three massive companies on the project will yield good results due to the necessary resources needed. "I'm hopeful, but don't expect any miracles," he added.

Bertolini said in his interview with CNBC that half of Americans have a chronic disease, and that leads to increased healthcare spending. People with chronic diseases "drive 86% of our costs," he said.

He also discussed how geography and social determinants have an impact on people's health and that a person's ZIP code has a 60% impact on their life expectancy. In an interview with The Washington Post, Bertolini said part of Aetna's $69 billion deal with retail pharmacy giant CVS includes plans to "push the financing, the insurance, to the back of the building" and focus on investing in local communities.

RELATED: Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says merger wouldn't change commitment to community-based care

Bertolini has previously touted the deal as a way to emphasize community health to help poorer communities and reduce healthcare costs overall. 

"If we can get into the community and we can make the investments there, it's cheaper," he said to CNBC. "We can win by just keeping people away from an emergency room visit."

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