Bringing Mindfulness to Work

The third-largest health insurance provider in the US introduced a meditation program—and others have followed suit. 

Mark Bertolini is CEO of Aetna, the third-largest health insurance provider in the United States, and he knows firsthand what mindfulness can do. Eleven years ago a skiing accident left Bertolini with a broken neck and plenty of prescriptions for pain medication. He credits mindfulness with helping him heal.

“The biggest breakthroughs in managing my pain occurred as a result of the meditative practice,” he told Mindful. “Learning new ways to think about the pain and new ways to control it had huge impacts on my ability to manage it.”

Inspired by such personal experience, the leadership at Aetna is working to increase access to meditation instruction. Last year, the company rolled out Mindfulness at Work—a regular 12-week, online meditation program—to Aetna staff and to commercial customers who pay for their employees’ health insurance claims and use Aetna for administrative and other services.

The program is aimed at minimizing work-related stress and improving worklife balance. It was designed in collaboration with Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., an expert on mindfulness in the workplace, and eMindful Inc., a provider of online programs that focus on mind-body wellness. To add to their mindfulness offerings, Aetna also introduced a yoga stress reduction program and a mindful eating program.

Aetna’s success with mindfulness has spurred other major companies to sign on with eMindful’s live internet teachings. In fact, 4 out of the 5 major insurers work with eMindful. And if you’re looking to try some of those courses yourself, eMindful has just launched an on-demand platform called eMindful Life where users can access mindfulness teachings directly as opposed to through an insurance provider. You can access live short and long form classes, and more than 300 different daily guided practices, and engage with other community members.

Other insurance organizations encouraging mindfulness:

Kaiser Permanente is the is the largest managed care organization in the United States, and offers mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes to its members and the general public. Gradutates of the MBSR program can take additional classes such as the Mindful Emotional Balance program. Their Mind-Body Through Behavioral Health department offers groups and courses targeted at the underlying causes of mood and behavioral disturbances such as anger, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare: launched in 2006, Harvard Pilgrim’s mindfulness curriculum includes classes in mindful eating, communication, parenting, and leadership to employer groups and the community. Courses vary from 1 hour workshops to 8 session multi-week programs, depending on the needs of the group in question. To date Harvard Pilgrim has delivered these services to over 50 businesses and other organizations.

For more resources on health care and mindfulness, visit Mindful’s integrative health page.

This web extra provides additional information related to an article titled, “Insure Well-Being” which appeared in the February 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.