Aetna announced today that Chairman and CEO Ronald Williams will retire from in April 2011.  Effective Nov. 29, 2010, he will become executive chairman, and Mark Bertolini, currently Aetna’s president and head of business operations, will be appointed CEO and elected to the company’s board of directors. Aetna said the board intends to elect Bertolini to the additional role of chairman upon Williams' retirement.

“After nearly 10 years at Aetna and with the company performing well, it is time to step aside," Williams said in a statement. "The passage of major health care reform legislation has underscored the need for market-based solutions to address quality and affordability challenges in health care, and the next few years will present another opportunity for Aetna to lead. Mark Bertolini is the ideal person to take Aetna forward.  He has done an excellent job in driving Aetna’s strong operating improvement and in the development of our strategic vision of the future.”

Bertolini joined Aetna in February 2003, and held a series of roles with increasing responsibilities before being named president in July 2007. Prior to joining Aetna, Bertolini held positions with Cigna and NYLCare and had been chief executive officer of SelectCare.

“I am proud to be given the opportunity to lead Aetna, a company with extraordinary strengths in brand, values and people,” Bertolini said. “I have had the great fortune to work alongside Ron Williams, whom I greatly admire and who made Aetna a leader in customer-driven innovation and health information technology.  I am excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and believe Aetna has the right strategy to win in the marketplace.”

The insurer also said that in his full-time role as executive chairman, Williams will focus on board duties as well as Aetna’s Chairman’s Initiatives, public policy and federal regulatory strategy. Following his retirement from Aetna, Williams has agreed to provide consulting services to Aetna and the Aetna Foundation through February 2012.

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