Aetna’s silence on ACA bail doesn’t slow public rant

‘Slimy,’ ‘blackmail’ and ‘#ProfitsoverPeople’ are among the many rancorous postings on social media about the insurer’s announcement. What does Aetna have to say? Not much.

Aetna’s Facebook page Wednesday morning offered friendly visuals and tidbits about nutritious back-to-school lunches and mindful meditations for moms.

There wasn’t a hint about Tuesday’s announcement that the firm would be leaving 11 of the 15 states where it offers coverage in line with the Affordable Care Act. Still, consumers refused to let the Hartford-based insurer quiet their disdain for the move. People also questioned the company’s financial motivation. Harshly worded comments were posted to Aetna’s “softer” stories.

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Aetna’s website didn’t offer a hint of the ACA news, either. These messages popped up on Twitter, again with no acknowledgment from company communicators:

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The backstory and allegations of blackmail

Aetna’s announcement came on Tuesday, but by Wednesday morning the news had gained momentum. Journalists scrutinized a recent letter sent by CEO Mark Bertolini to the U.S. Justice Department that hinted of possible repercussions if the feds were to block Aetna’s planned $37 billion merger with Humana. The Huffington Post reported that Bertolini had threatened to leave all public exchanges in 2017.

Bertolini has cited unsustainable losses of $430 million over the past two years.

Politico shared a few examples of Bertolini’s mixed messages about the Affordable Care Act:

Only four months ago Bertolini was bullish on Obamacare. “We see this as a good investment,” the insurance chief told investors on a call in April, touting the 1.2 million new customers that had flocked to Aetna under the health law’s new online markets. He also repeated in May that the company planned to stay in the exchanges. One thing that changed since then: The Department of Justice’s effort to stop Aetna’s proposed $37 billion merger with Humana. The two sides go to court in December.

Presidential candidates immediately jumped into the fray. The Washington Post reported :

The health-care law is likely to prompt another heated political battle, regardless of which party wins the White House and control of Congress in November.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested that he would seek to scrap it altogether. Quoting a news story by Reuters on Tuesday, he tweeted: “Another health insurer is pulling back due to ‘persistent financial losses on #Obamacare plans.’ Only the beginning!”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has pledged to modify the law to expand coverage and wants to add a public insurance option.

The post continued:

Both candidates’ proposals would face stiff political headwinds, but several health-care experts said lawmakers could still pursue more modest changes to make the program work better. “The idea of somehow repealing it is far-fetched,” said Joseph Antos, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “But changing it is not far-fetched.”

Are communicators at Aetna managing the news—and fiery comments—appropriately? Are silence and updates about sugary drinks enough to quell or divert the online conversations? How would you address the stream of rancor on social media?

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