How son's lymphoma diagnosis and an injury impacted Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini's views on healthcare

Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said two life-threatening medical challenges shaped his views on U.S. healthcare: his son's cancer diagnosis and a spinal cord injury he suffered after a skiing accident.

Mr. Bertolini told Yahoo Finance the two incidents occurred around the same time. His son Eric was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2001 at age 16. Mr. Bertolini said he left his job as an executive at Bloomfield, Conn.-based Cigna to care for Eric and donated one of his kidneys to him in 2007, according to the report.

In 2004, one year after his son returned home from the hospital, Mr. Bertolini said he suffered a spinal cord injury that left him partially disabled. He said the experiences made him realize the U.S. healthcare system isn't necessarily equipped to help patients reassimilate into society in a productive way after suffering a major health issue.

"The biggest message out of all of those for me was that the healthcare system fixes what's broken," Mr. Bertolini told Yahoo Finance. "For me, it was a broken neck and a macerated brachial plexus, bad nerve damage. For my son, it was his cancer. But … thinking of me as a whole human being, engaging in my own life and being back in society in a way that was productive and useful for me was not on [clinicians'] agenda."

Mr. Bertolini said his approach to healthcare has become more holistic and focused on creating programs that go beyond simply paying for acute care issues. For him, a healthy individual is one who is productive. Productivity, Mr. Bertolini argued, makes an individual happy by allowing them to be socially, spiritually, economically and physically viable contributors to society.

To view Mr. Bertolini's full interview, click here.

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