Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, who has been critical of Obamacare in the past and whose company has withdrawn from all its exchanges, said Thursday that he believed Obamacare could be repaired.
"Nobody would fix it," Bertolini said about Obamacare, speaking at the U.S. News & World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow conference in Washington. "If you were to leave Medicare alone for seven years or eight years it would fall apart. Just like this is. We need a bipartisan approach."
He indicated that he did not believe that Obamacare is beyond repair.
"We can fix it; the list is short. We just need a group of people with level heads and rooms to fix it," he said.
Bertolini attributed some of the issues with the law to the fact that it had been passed only by Democrats.
"Ever major social program this country has ever passed has been a bipartisan program. Every single one of them, except the Affordable Care Act," Bertolini said, using the formal name for Obamacare. "Every one of those programs is tweaked by the legislature every year: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. CHIP hopefully this week. As you look at that and you realize you don't have a bipartisan bill that's been sitting fallow for seven years, it's no wonder it's not working or it's getting worse."
Bertolini has been critical of Obamacare in the past, saying that the law's exchanges are in a "death spiral" and predicting that insurers would continue to withdraw from the exchanges. Aetna also faced scrutiny for withdrawing significantly from the exchanges for 2017 after the Obama administration blocked a merger between Aetna and Humana.
Bertolini was asked about the death spiral comments at the event.
"That is not a new term by the way. That term has been used for years," Bertolini said.
Aetna sold Obamacare plans in several markets during the first several years but isn't selling plans at all for 2018. The company has continued to amass losses from selling the plans because too few healthy people have enrolled in them.
Bertolini noted that Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., had come up with a proposal that has been backed by at least 60 members of both parties. The bill is in limbo and some senators say that it may not be passed until December.
"What we should think about is whether or not the folks down on Capitol Hill have spent the right amount of time thinking about the American people's issues on this versus re-election and terms like 'repeal' or terms like 'tax cuts for the rich.'"
He said he was "endlessly" discussing the possibility of fixing Obamacare with lawmakers.
Asked whether there was "hope" for a bipartisan compromise, Bertolini replied, "We'll see."