Out Of The Shadows
Any gardener worth his trowel knows that some flowers quietly flourish in shade even as showier varieties wither in the heat and glare of the sun. Step into Aetna’s garden these days and you’ll be quickly ushered down a path to its thriving group business, well away from its drooping healthcare enterprise, where (no pun intended) mum’s the word.
Waiting for you is Senior Vice President Frolly Boyd, the upbeat transplanted Brit who heads up “the other half” of Aetna U.S. Healthcare.
“It’s somewhat of a surprise in the industry how big Aetna’s group business is,” she tells me, in typically English understatement, “primarily because we’re a little overshadowed by some of the healthcare issues that face us.”
Big business indeed, $1.7 billion worth, covering 12 million members, principally in the large employer category. Which makes her operation, by her own estimate, the fifth largest in the highly competitive group business.
“What intrigues me as we move through this decade,” says Frolly Boyd, “is the convergence of health and income protection issues.”
She points, for example, to those breakthroughs in breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease which have us living longer with chronic conditions that impact our ability to earn money and protect the future. “There’s an interesting link that was perhaps lost 15 years ago when these two types of product lines diverged,” she says.
“Part of creating a new Aetna is leveraging the strengths of a health company in that world of converged issues and developing potentially hybrid products that would serve the needs of both employers and consumers.”
Among the other issues facing group insurers, she says, is the trend toward customers paying more of their benefits costs, which is happening slowly in healthcare, more quickly in group. So the fair deal, the affordable price, is a growing concern, as is the need for information on getting older and getting sicker.
Long-term care, which the government has made clear is a personal responsibility, is “a huge unfunded liability” and “a time bomb waiting to go off,” she says. It’s also a growth opportunity. “The ignorance factor around how the government does or does not pay for long-term care is staggering in its proportions,” she says. “Carriers have a unique opportunity to be on the right side of that issue and help develop solutions.”