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Modern Healthcare Magazine
Mar 06, 2000

On Second Thought, Activist Group Sorry To See Aetna CEO Go

After calling a year ago for the dismissal of Richard Huber, chief executive officer of Aetna U.S. Healthcare, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights had second thoughts. In a news release in late February, the group begged Aetna shareholders not to fire the CEO, describing him as the secret weapon of the HMO patients' rights movement. Jamie Court, spokesman for the Santa Monica, Calif., activist organization, listed Huber's achievements on behalf of patients' rights:

* He angered the American Medical Association enough that it has launched an all-out effort to "get Aetna."

* After a jury awarded the widow of an Aetna cancer patient $120 million, Huber called it a "travesty of justice. You had a skillful ambulance-chasing lawyer, a politically motivated judge and a weeping widow."

* When Aetna bought Prudential, Huber called Texas "the filet mignon of the deal." The Justice Department later forced Aetna to divest 800,000 members in that state.

* Huber's hard line on hospital reimbursements antagonized hospitals in New Jersey.

On Feb. 25, despite the consumer group's pleas, the Aetna board dismissed Huber, citing the company's poor financial performance and tanking stock price.

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