Quackery has gradually been infecting teaching institutions and hospitals all across the US as a result of deliberate marketing strategies and wealthy donors, and the developments are a cause for concern. Now quackery has found an unexpected ally. Mark Bertolini is gushing over a range of dieatary woo, acupuncture, naturopathy and craniosacral therapy, and he’s got the usual anecdotes to back up his claims: “We know this stuff works. We believe in this, it’s just building the evidence base,” says Bertolini. That’s right. Even though the evidence is missing he knows what the correct conclusion is going to be; now the question is just one of shoehorning and carefully selecting the data into serving the dogma. How committed is he? Well, Bertolini is a true believer in naturopathy, to the extent that he was the keynote speaker at the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ annual conference.
Why does it matter? The thing, of course, is that Bertolini is CEO of Aetna. One wonders how his commitment to sheer pseudoscience will be treated by its stakeholder; health insurance companies have not exactly been rushing to cover magical cures based on medieval metaphysics. Let’s just say that if Bertolini is going to use his position to alter the policies of the major health insurance companies, he could have found a more praiseworthy target.
Diagnosis: I suppose Bertolini well represents the kind of conclusions people may draw if they have no understanding of science or critical thinking. But if you are going to use your powers as a CEO of a major health insurance company to improve the world I can hardly imagine a less worthy area of focus.