"As a business leader, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to be part of the solution to the problem of the uninsured," said Williams. "We expect nothing less from the companies that do business with Aetna. Nationally, since 2000, the percentage of firms offering health benefits has dropped almost 10 percent. While 99 percent of large businesses offer health benefits to their workers, fewer than half (45 percent) of the smallest firms with less than 10 workers do so. The costs associated with those employers who do not provide health care raises the premiums for those who do by an average of 9 percent. Offering access to health care is a civic and leadership responsibility, and we urge other American corporations to join us in taking a similar, proactive step."
Aetna has set a goal of having a minimum of 80 percent of its vendors offering benefits by 2010, and all vendors offering benefits by 2011. This action step, aimed to help reduce the number of working uninsured in America, is in keeping with the company’s call and work toward the transformation of the American health care system.
"The actions we will be taking are meant to begin a dialogue with our vendors, said Joseph C. Black, Aetna’s chief procurement officer. "We intend to increase awareness about the importance of health benefits, while increasing our own understanding of the issues impacting our significant vendor base. Our focus will be on helping the primarily small businesses that are facing the challenge of providing health coverage. We want to work with them to find solutions."
While nearly 84 percent of Americans have some form of insurance, roughly 47 million, or one in six Americans, lack health coverage. Of the uninsured, nearly 60 percent work for small businesses. Research consistently shows that the uninsured:
And when the uninsured need to access care, it is at great cost — $10s of billions annually — which strains federal and state budgets and leads to higher premiums for the insured.
As a first step, the company will send letters to its suppliers and vendors notifying them of this initiative and asking them to inform Aetna if they presently offer benefits. The status of their contract will not be jeopardized by their answer, but Aetna does need to set a baseline and alert these business partners of our direction on this important social issue.
The company also will develop new contract language for future contracts, and will develop a business strategy to educate these employers about the range of benefits options available to them, both through Aetna and other carriers.
Williams notes that this initiative is new territory for Aetna, and the company is committed to sharing what it learns along the way as it executes toward this goal.
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. www.aetna.com.