Aetna Rodgers building Hartford Connecticut

Aetna History

See where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and how we lead change

From 1850 to the digital age and beyond

1850

  • Aetna Insurance Company organizes an annuity fund to sell life insurance.
vintage Aetna Life advertisement

1853

  • The Annuity department separates from Aetna Insurance and is incorporated as Aetna Life Insurance Company. The company's first president is Eliphalet A. Bulkeley. The "Aetna" name is retained to take advantage of the good reputation of the original Aetna. The name was inspired by an 11,000-foot volcano on the eastern shores of Sicily, Mt. Etna, which was the most active volcano in Europe.

1854

  • Aetna hires its first full-time employee, Thomas O. Enders

1857

  • Eliphalet A. Bulkeley stops a move to liquidate the company during an economic downturn.

1861

  • Aetna begins offering participating life insurance policies, which paid dividends to policyholders just as the mutuals did, but gave Aetna the ability to better compete in the marketplace. Aetna launches its new product with an aggressive promotional effort, which included higher commission rates for agents. This shift in strategy caught the industry by surprise. With the outbreak of the Civil War, many companies were thinking of retrenching, not expansion. But the devastation of the battlefields combined with a prosperous wartime economy sparked a surge in life insurance purchases.

1865

  • Annual income tops $1 million. By 1864, Aetna increased its business 600 percent over 1861 levels. This rapid growth gave Aetna the financial stability to meet the stringent requirements placed on life companies in Massachusetts and New York.

1867

  • Aetna issues its first farm mortgage loan. By 1872, Aetna had 27 percent of its assets in farm mortgages. From that start, the company rose to become one of the two largest national firms in the farm mortgage field. By 1924, Aetna had 43 percent of its assets — $94 million — invested in the breadbasket of the country.

1868

  • Aetna radically alters its business practices and hires its first actuary. It also abandons the half-note premium system, a widely used insurance standard. An all-cash premium plan is introduced, making Aetna one of the first companies to switch from half-notes. Aetna also built into new policies an emphasis on consumer-oriented items, such as nonforfeiture clauses and paying policyholder dividends after the first year rather than the fifth, as was generally done.

1872

  • Eliphalet A. Bulkeley dies; Thomas O. Enders becomes president.

1878

  • Aetna increases its capitalization from $150,000 to $750,000.

1879

  • Thomas O. Enders resigns. Morgan G. Bulkeley, Eliphalet's son, replaces Enders.

1888

  • Aetna moves into its fourth office at 650 Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut. The new building serves as Aetna's home office for the next 42 years.
     
  • Aetna President Morgan G. Bulkeley is elected governor of Connecticut. Bulkeley, the son of the first Republican speaker in the Connecticut Legislature, was a career politician on the Republican side. He had already been the mayor of Hartford for several terms, and would eventually wind up his political career as a member of the storied "Millionaires' Senate" of 1906, so named for the wealth of its members.

1891

  • Aetna issues its first accident policy. With its entry into accident coverage, Aetna took its first step in a 30-year transformation from a monoline insurer to a company that offered a variety of coverages.

1899

  • Aetna becomes one of the first stock insurance companies to enter the health insurance business. The new product was offered only to people holding or purchasing an Aetna life or accident policy.

1902

  • Aetna begins offering liability coverage. As the nation's industrial base grew more complex, and the Progressive social reform movement gained political momentum, Aetna responds by organizing an Accident and Liability department in 1902 to handle employers' liability and workmen's collective insurance. This department became the cornerstone of the Aetna Accident and Liability Company in 1907. It later added protection against damage to horse teams, flywheel breakage, auto collision coverage, plate glass and burglary insurance, and surety bonds.

1904

  • Aetna introduces its first corporate seal.
san francisco earthquake mess

1906

  • The San Francisco earthquake hammers the insurance industry. Two hundred and forty-three insurance companies pay out more than $225 million in claims. This wipes out every dollar of profit American fire insurers had made over the previous 47 years. Twenty companies fail completely. Most make only partial payments under the tenuous assertion that most of the damage in the city had been caused by the earthquake (for which fire insurers were not liable). Nonetheless, the Hartford insurance companies would pay every claim in full. The Hartford Fire Insurance Company pays over $11 million. Aetna Insurance Company pays almost $3 million.

1907

  • The company begins offering automobile coverage. Soon after, Aetna began aggressively developing related lines, such as collision and damage.

1908

  • Aetna hires its first home office female employee, Julia Kinghorn, a telephone switchboard operator.

1910

  • Aetna begins using Hollerith (keypunch) machines for tabulating. This is one of the earliest examples of Aetna’s willingness to use technology to improve efficiency.

1911

  • The company begins its first national advertising campaign.

1912

  • Aetna introduces the industry's first combination automobile policy.
     
  • Several people insured by Aetna lose their lives on the Titanic.

1913

  • Aetna forms a department to sell group life insurance, becoming one of the first insurers to write group coverage for businesses. This became the foundation upon which Aetna built its current health care business. The 1900s brought into the public consciousness the notion that employers were responsible for the safety of their workers.

1917

  • The United States enters World War I. Aetna uses its financial strength to provide insurance needed to bond contractors involved in government construction. The company also helps fund the country's war effort by purchasing and selling millions of dollars of Liberty Bonds.

1919

  • Aetna begins offering group disability policies.

1921

  • Aetna appoints E.E. Cammack to run the Group department.

1922

  • Morgan G. Bulkeley dies after 43 years as Aetna president. Under Bulkeley, Aetna experienced explosive growth. Its assets increased from $25.7 million in 1879 to $207 million, and premium income rose more than twenty-fold. Bulkeley is replaced by his nephew, Morgan B. Brainard. Under Brainard, Aetna revamped its agency system and rewrote its policies in simpler language.
     
  • The company advertises on radio for the first time.
     
  • Aetna creates the first insurer-owned rehabilitation clinic for disabled workers, located in Syracuse, NY.

1924

  • Aetna participates in the first Greater Hartford Community Chest fund-raising drive, starting its long tradition of giving.

1926

  • Aetna appoints its first female officer, Dr. Marion Bills. Bills revamped the company's personnel policies within two years. She also introduced the Bonus Plan, a piecework sliding pay scale that was primarily applied to data processing departments.

1929

  • The stock market crash kicks off the Great Depression. The inherent strength of the Aetna companies enables them to survive. Aetna manages the crisis by withholding dividend payments to shareholders from late 1932 to early 1934, reducing the workforce through attrition and cutting salaries by 10 percent. Aetna employees survive the Depression in relatively good shape.
     
  • Construction begins on the current home office at 151 Farmington Ave. At the time of its completion in late 1930, the structure is the largest colonial-style building in the world and is the largest office building in Connecticut.

1931

  • The company bonds the construction of the Hoover Dam.

1932

  • Aetna bonds the construction of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

1940

  • Aetna bonds the construction of seven U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. More than 1,600 Aetna employees served in the military during World War II. As it did in World War I, Aetna aids the war effort by throwing its substantial resources behind bond drives, raising millions for the war chest.

1944

  • Aetna provides insurance coverage for the Manhattan Project, which produced the world's first atomic bomb.
     
  • Aetna becomes the first insurer to advertise on television.

1947

  • Aetna provides group coverage to the United Nations.

1949

  • Aetna bonds the construction of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

1951

  • The Group department introduces major medical coverage, as a labor shortage coupled with a wage freeze make employee benefits one way employers can attract and retain workers.

1953

  • Aetna celebrates its centennial. The gala is attended by more than 8,000 people at the home office. The festivities featured Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, Harry James and his big band, Henny Youngman, and a congratulatory note from Vice President Richard M. Nixon. The birthday cake stands over 12 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.
     
    Watch the centennial celebration video
     
  • Aetna develops the first automobile simulator (the “Drivotrainer”) to teach high school students to drive.

1954

  • Aetna orders its first computer, an IBM 650.
     
  • E.E. Cammack retires after being Aetna's chief actuary for more than 30 years, a senior officer in the casualty affiliates since 1927, and a member of the Board of Directors of three of the four Aetna companies.

1957

  • Morgan B. Brainard dies after 35 years at Aetna’s helm. Henry S. Beers becomes Aetna's new CEO. Beers would oversee a company-wide overhaul that streamlined operations, updated products and procedures, and modernized both the workforce and the workplace.

1959

  • Henry S. Beers makes corporate social responsibility an Aetna objective. Upon the philanthropic foundations that he laid, his successors were able to construct a company that was not only a progressive force in the community, but in the nation.

1960

  • Aetna enters the international insurance arena by acquiring a Canadian life insurer, Excelsior Life Insurance Company.

1963

  • An enterprising Houston agent convinced America's original seven astronauts to purchase Aetna policies. He then convinced Aetna to write the policies, the first individual life insurance policies for spacemen.
     
  • Henry S. Beers retires and is replaced by Olcott D. Smith. Smith was an Aetna director and had served as vice chairman under Beers since 1962.

  • The company formally crafts an "Equal Opportunity" policy.

1965

  • The company cosponsors a series of National Geographic television specials, including Jacques Cousteau's undersea world and Miss Jane Goodall's chimpanzees.

1966

  • Aetna pays the first Medicare claim.
     
  • Aetna partners with Italy's Assicurazioni Generali to form an international insurance network that would market insurance products in over 70 countries.

1967

  • Aetna Life Insurance Company announces its intention to restructure its corporate framework into a holding company that would own all the stock of Aetna Life and its affiliated companies.

1968

  • The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

  • Aetna expands its international business in 1968 by acquiring a majority interest in Producer's and Citizen's Cooperative Assurance Company, a Sydney, Australia-based entity.

1969

  • Aetna launches a new diversified investment strategy. By diversifying the company's profit base into fields that did not suffer the potentially devastating fluctuations that casualty insurance did, it hoped to minimize any operating losses the company might incur. As a result, Aetna stated its intention to expand into related insurance fields in both national and international markets.

1971

  • Aetna Life and Casualty Foundation, a vehicle for corporate giving, is formed.

1972

  • Olcott D. Smith retires and is replaced as CEO by John H. Filer, a Smith protégé and Aetna general counsel.

  • Aetna sponsors the Aetna World Cup, an international tennis challenge. The event featured top professionals from Australia and the United States in a team format.

1973

  • Aetna creates an HMO subsidiary.

1975

  • The Hartford Civic Center, an Aetna realty development project, opens. Aetna joined with the city of Hartford to finance the Civic Center — one of the largest and most unique public-private projects of its kind. The company owned the retail half of the facility, while the city owned the coliseum.

1977

  • Aetna launches an issues-oriented advertising campaign that increases the company's name recognition in a positive fashion without attempting to sell Aetna products.

1981

  • Aetna reorganizes along market segments. As part of a company-wide reorganization, Aetna abandons its divisional arrangement in favor of a more market-focused structure. The Personal Financial Security Division is created to meet the needs of individuals; the Commercial Insurance Division is developed to cater to small and large businesses; and the Group Division is renamed the Employee Benefits Division in order to better describe its function.

1982

  • Aetna introduces its "Aetna, I'm Glad I Met Ya!" advertising campaign.

1984

  • John H. Filer retires and is replaced by James T. Lynn, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget. His administration emphasized return on shareholders' equity as a key performance standard.

  • Aetna abandons its diversified investment strategy.

  • Aetna opens new facilities worth $200 million. The expansion strategy encompassed three parts: a new building in Middletown, CT, that consolidated the Employee Benefits Division into a single site; construction in Hartford that consisted of a training center across from the home office, renovation of several buildings on Capitol Avenue and the construction of another office building downtown; and the construction of a new building in Fall River, MA.

1985

  • Aetna joins with Voluntary Hospitals of America to form Partners National Health Plans, an alternative delivery health care joint venture. Aetna, then the nation's largest private health insurer, entered the 50-50 joint venture to begin marketing HMOs, PPOs and other competitively priced products. VHA, with over 400 hospitals in 40 states, was the nation's largest not-for-profit multihospital organization.

1986

  • Aetna bonds the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

  • A U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, NY, chooses Aetna to administer claims payments for Agent Orange victims.

1987

  • Partners National Health Plans total membership tops 1 million.

  • Aetna sells the industry's first employer group long-term care plan.

1988

  • Aetna sponsors PBS' The American Experience television series.

  • Aetna acquires Human Affairs International, Inc., a leading provider of employee assistance programs and managed mental health plans, to complement its growing investment in managed care systems. 

1990

  • Aetna stops selling individual health policies, ending a 91-year-old practice. Aetna re-evaluates its lines of business, basing its examination on the profitability of the market and the expertise and resources of the company.

  • Fortune Magazine lists Aetna as its fifth most-admired financial services company.

1992

  • James T. Lynn retires and is replaced as CEO by Ronald E. Compton.

1993

  • Aetna opens its first offices in China.

1996

  • Aetna sells its property-casualty operations to Travelers Insurance Group for $4 billion, ending the century-old multiline business era.

  • Aetna merges with U.S. Healthcare, beginning a new era — Aetna as a health and financial services company. The health business becomes Aetna U.S. Healthcare.

  • Aetna combines its financial services business units into Aetna Retirement Services.

  • Aetna Life & Casualty is renamed Aetna Inc.

1997

  • Aetna Retirement Services purchases Financial Network Investment Company, a leading financial planning company.

  • Aetna commits $7 million to help fund the American Heart Association’s National Women’s Heart Disease and Stroke Campaign to raise awareness among women about the risks of heart disease and stroke.

  • Aetna was the first national health benefits company to support the new diabetes screening guidelines endorsed by the American Diabetes Association, and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

  • Aetna was the first national health benefits company to follow the new mammogram screening guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

1998

  • Ron Compton retires and is succeeded by Richard L. Huber, president and chief executive officer of Aetna Inc. since July 1997.

  • Aetna acquires NYLCare Health Plans for $1.05 billion, adding 2.2 million members to Aetna U.S. Healthcare’s membership base.

1999

  • Aetna acquires Prudential HealthCare for $1 billion, making Aetna the country’s largest provider of health benefits with more than 21 million members.

  • Aetna commits $15 million to Hartford redevelopment, including $10 million for projects within the Capital City Economic Development Authority district.

  • Aetna was the first national health benefits company to voluntarily provide for external review of coverage decisions by neutral, independent physician reviewers.

2000

  • William H. Donaldson, an Aetna director since 1977 and a former chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, becomes Aetna chairman, CEO and president, replacing Richard L. Huber, who resigns.

  • Aetna names John W. Rowe, MD, president and CEO of Aetna U.S. Healthcare, helping Aetna to remake its business model to meet consumer demand for choice and flexibility and enhancing relationships with doctors and hospitals.

  • Aetna completes the sale of its financial services and international businesses to ING for $7.7 billion and spins off the health business to its shareholders.

  • Aetna sponsors the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which raises millions for colorectal cancer research and education.

2001

  • William H. Donaldson steps down as chairman and is succeeded by John W. Rowe, MD, who becomes Aetna chairman, CEO and president.

  • Ronald A. Williams, an executive from WellPoint, assumes the position of executive vice president and chief of Health Operations.

  • Aetna launches Aetna HealthFund®, a product that marks the first foray into consumerism by a national, full-service health benefits company.

2002

  • John W. Rowe, MD calls on the health insurance industry to support legislation and guidelines for access to genetic testing, genetic counseling and the appropriate use of test results. The guidelines, reflected in Aetna’s policy for coverage decisions, become the industry standard.

  • Ronald A. Williams is named president of Aetna, and he is elected to the Board of Directors.

2003

  • Aetna celebrates its 150th anniversary. To mark the milestone, Aetna executives ring the Closing Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on June 16.

  • Aetna and physicians begin a new era of cooperation by agreeing to streamline communications, reduce administrative complexity and improve the quality of the health care system, ending litigation between Aetna and 700,000 physicians and medical societies.

  • Aetna, a leader in addressing health disparities, commits more than $3 million to improve access to care and delivery of health care to its diverse populations.

  • Aetna is the first national, full-service health insurer to announce a health savings account (HSA) option. 

2004

  • Aetna adopts a new approach to end-of-life care through the Aetna Compassionate CareSM program of expanded benefits, nurse case management and information.

2005

  • After achieving a high-water mark in stock price in 2004, Aetna declares a two-for-one split of the company's common stock effective March 11, 2005.

  • Aetna completes a series of strategic acquisitions to strengthen its products and services while reaching new customer segments. These acquisitions include Strategic Resource Company, an administrator of group benefits products for part-time and hourly workers; ActiveHealth Management, a clinically focused, technology-driven health management and health care data analytics company; and HMS Healthcare, a regional health care network operating in Michigan, Colorado and other states.

  • Aetna launches a transparency program that allows consumers in selected areas to see the cost of physician services online before they go to the doctor's office.

  • Aetna and the Aetna Foundation award $2.25 million in grants to address racial and ethnic disparities and end-of-life care.

2006

  • Ronald A. Williams becomes chairman, CEO and president of Aetna, succeeding John W. Rowe, MD, who retires.

  • Aetna and the Aetna Foundation award $2.25 million in grants to address end-of-life care and depression.

  • Aetna commits $50 million to support minority- and women-owned businesses over the next four years.

  • Aetna acquires the disability and leave management business of Broadspire, a leading provider of disability and casualty claims management services.

2007

  • Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna's executive vice president and head of Business Operations, is named president of Aetna Inc., reporting to Chairman and CEO Ronald A. Williams.

  • Aetna acquires Schaller Anderson, a provider of health care management services for Medicaid plans, headquartered in Phoenix, AZ.

  • Aetna acquires Goodhealth Worldwide, a general underwriter for international private medical insurance, offering expatriate benefits around the world.

2008

  • Aetna is selected by Fortune Magazine as the most admired company in the Health Care: Insurance and Managed Care category.

  • As part of a goal to improve patient safety, Aetna adds a "never events" policy into its hospital contracts so that Aetna will no longer reimburse for serious, preventable medical errors.

2009

  • For the second consecutive year, Aetna is selected by Fortune Magazine as the most admired company in the Health Care: Insurance and Managed Care category.

2010

  • President Mark T. Bertolini is named CEO of Aetna, succeeding Ronald A. Williams, who remains as chairman until his retirement in April 2011. Bertolini also is named to the company's Board of Directors.

  • For the third consecutive year, Aetna is selected by Fortune Magazine as the most admired company in the Health Care: Insurance and Managed Care category.

2011

  • Mark T. Bertolini becomes chairman of Aetna, succeeding Ronald A. Williams, who retires.

  • Aetna acquires Medicity, a health information exchange technology company headquartered in Salt Lake City.

  • Aetna acquires Prodigy Health Group, the nation’s largest independent third-party administrator of self-funded health care plans, headquartered in New York City.

2012

  • Aetna unveils a refreshed brand promise as the company evolves from an insurance carrier to a health company.

  • Aetna is recognized as one of America's most community-minded companies, ranking fourth in “The Civic 50” survey. 

2013

  • Aetna acquires Coventry Health Care, Inc., making the combined organization the third-largest health care benefits company in America, based on membership.

2014

  • Aetna and the Aetna Foundation announce more than $1.2 million in grants to support the use of digital health technology among vulnerable and minority populations. The grants are part of a larger $4 million, three-year digital health commitment.
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