Aetna Retirees Association,  Aetna's promise of benefits to former Aetna employees

About ARA

In Brief

The Aetna Retirees Association, Inc. (ARA) is a nonprofit association incorporated in Connecticut pursuant to Connecticut statutes and focused exclusively on the protection of retirement health and pension benefits for Aetna retirees and their beneficiaries.

ARA Brochure

Our informational brochure provides a good capsule view of our operations. Take a look!

Our History

ARA's Origin
Ours is a relatively short history. Prior to the February 6, 2004 announcement that Aetna was eliminating the subsidy for dental, all those currently involved were content in the knowledge that they had Aetna's promise of benefits throughout their retirement. Those who retired before 1988 were confident of the Company's promise that these benefits would be free of charge.

Then things changed. Without knowing what others might be doing, John Dwyer was getting calls and emails from many retired co-workers who were feeling betrayed. John was particularly concerned, because he felt that as an Executive Vice President in the Casualty Division, he was the one who had made these promises to about 2,500 employees in Aetna's behalf.

At the same time, Bob Quinn and Emmett McTeague, two former Vice Presidents from Corporate Human Resources, were having similar feelings. They had made the promises themselves and guided many other HR people in advising those being laid off in the '90's that there were great advantages to retiring. While the dental benefit was not a major benefit and would not cause a financial problem for the people at their level in the organization, Bob and Emmett were familiar with data that showed the average retirement benefit to be around $6,000. For people at that income level, the new dental payments combined with increased deductibles in medical could consume as much as 10% of their income. These people deserved to have their concerns heard.

Bob and Emmett met with Company representatives and prepared materials to help those who wanted to voice their concerns to Chairman Rowe. John met with Company representatives and spoke to the issue at the Shareholders' meeting.

It was quickly clear that Aetna management had no intention of changing its position. They had already booked the savings into first quarter earnings. The rules for debiting earnings, because of anticipated benefits due retirees, allows Aetna to take a large credit to earnings even when canceling a small benefit like dental. In this case, canceling a $3 million benefit resulted in a $32 million credit to earnings in the first quarter. Retiree conversations and letters had no impact. The rationale was: everybody else is doing it. (You all remember that one from when you had teenagers.)

Early in this process John learned of Bob and Emmett's efforts and vice versa, and they soon decided to combine their efforts. The first steps involved getting additional help and forming an organization. Fortunately they began getting calls and emails from other retirees who wanted to help.

Bob Gilligan was one of the many retirees angered by the Company's actions. He contacted the leaders of other retiree associations and decided he wanted to be a part of the solution. He soon became President of the new organization. Working with retired lawyers he filed for incorporation of the Association. During this time, Bob Quinn worked with John Dwyer to put together our Board and with Emmett McTeague and Bob Gilligan to put together a leadership team. Dues were set and an announcement sent out. The Aetna Retirees Association, Inc. was in business.

Some More-Recent History
As a result of Bob Quinn's and Emmett McTeague's initial meeting with Aetna, a relationship was begun. While this relationship was tenuous and confrontational at times, over the years, we have worked very diligently and carefully to build the respectful and collaborative relationship we currently enjoy with our contacts at Aetna. Many people have worked and continue to work very hard to get us to the level at which we are today.

One of the keys to building a positive working relationship with Aetna's HR Team was our creation of a liaison committee. Since our initial liaison meeting with Aetna, we have continued to meet with Aetna a number of times each year. Some of what these meetings entail is summarized below:

  • We periodically hold meetings with Aetna's team to (a) discuss ongoing issues, (b) raise members' concerns, (c) review proposed benefits/pricing for the next benefit year and (d) provide input on ongoing Aetna initiatives and other benefit-related issues.
  • We refer members' specific issues (on medical benefits, pensions, claims, enrollment, etc.) to our contacts and follow up to make certain the members' issues have been resolved.
  • We meet with Aetna personnel on "special" issues concerning members such as (a) the relative strength of the pension plan, (b) the impact of the "cap" on benefits pricing, (c) how the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare will likely affect benefits and pricing of our plans, (d) the understandability of the annual enrollment process, (e) how COLA works and how it compares to or differs from Social Security COLA, (f) the "de-risking" of pensions, (g) how programs are marketed and sold under the Affordable Care Act (example, private and public exchanges), (h) healthcare initiatives by Aetna such as MedAssurant, Altegra Health, CenseoHealth and others which impact how and when Aetna contacts members.

In general, after we hold a meeting with Aetna, we prepare a newsletter to ARA's membership informing them of what was discussed at the meetings and what the outcomes were.

Over the years, we have continued to improve our relationship with Aetna such that, as of today, we believe we have a superior working relationship with our contacts, one which is built on mutual honesty and trust. There have been a number of occasions in the past few years where Aetna has initiated some of these meetings to provide us with a "heads up" on what may be coming down the road with respect to matters/policies which affect our members.

During the ten years since our formation, Aetna benefits for existing retirees have remained essentially unchanged, while our relationship with Aetna has improved immeasurably. Issues, concerns, and problems can now be and are raised by both sides and discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This facilitates communications with Aetna's retirees and improves their understanding of the benefits and of the processes, options, etc. related thereto.

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