How personal healthcare experiences shaped Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini's career

Even amid his long career in the health insurance industry, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says his management style has been shaped perhaps the most by the time he spent in the hospital at his son's side and as a patient himself.

Bertolini (pictured right) started his career in the health insurance industry in the 1980s as part of a health maintenance organization known as SelectCare, according to Institutional Investor. From there he moved on to a stint at New York Life Insurance Company and then to a management position at Cigna, but he had to leave Cigna after 18 months to care for his son Eric, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

Though at one point he had entered hospice care, Bertolini's son eventually beat the odds and recovered enough to go home, according to the article. Bertolini then joined Aetna and was instrumental in retooling the company's Compassionate Care program for patients with advanced illnesses. His suggested changes, one of which was to allow hospice patients to receive curative services, resulted in reduced inpatient hospital stays, better quality end-of-life care and lower costs.

Bertolini later found himself assuming the role of patient when he broke his neck in multiple places during a skiing accident, according to the article. There, too, his experience shaped his role at Aetna, as his choice to manage his pain through acupuncture, meditation and yoga rather than painkillers led him to offer similar services to the health insurer's employees.

Both experiences in the healthcare system have made Bertolini place greater value on the input and perspective of others. "When you realize you can't do it all yourself anymore and you need other people's help, that actually improves quality of life and is pretty amazing," he told the publication, adding, "that applies not only to your personal life but also to your professional life."

Now Bertolini faces yet another challenge in his professional life--executing a merger deal with fellow health insurance giant Humana. Late last week he sought to assure his employees, through an internal memo, that the consolidation will benefit both companies, FierceHealthPayer reports.

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