Editor’s Desk

Aetna’s Bertolini Looking to Buy

Frank Diamond
Managing Editor

Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini

Aetna is mighty bullish these days, at least according to Investors.com. Aetna wants to buy either Humana or Cigna. The great man theory of history might be in play here, although only history can judge who’s great and who’s not.

Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini seems to want to do great things, with his talk—and action—about social justice getting play in high-brow publications.

He gave his lowest salaried employees a substantial raise and told the New Yorker in February that “companies are not just money-making machines. For the good of the social order, these are the kinds of investments we should be willing to make.”

Barron’s reports that Bertolini in so many words told analysts at an investors meeting on May 11 that “government business is the focus for inorganic growth, while compatible cultures for post-merger synergies were viewed as the driver in all transactions.”

Add the sauce of cheap debt, and an Aetna-Humana and Aetna-Cigna deal may become a reality.

Medicare is booming, apparently, and Aetna wants a piece of the action. Barron’s mentions other reasons, perhaps the most interesting one being that Aetna (read Bertolini) is not living in fear of King v. Burwell going against the ACA but is instead betting that a negative ruling won’t completely undo the law but only force lawmakers to fine tune it.

Is that foolish? Or is that leadership?