Companies have to keep their customers happy -- even those that they're hoping will become former customers.
While the rate is extremely low -- Aetna cancels about three out of every 10,000 policies -- the media love to glom onto stories about rescinded policies. What's more touching than a family facing sky-high medical bills after their mean old insurance agency cancels their policy? Who cares if the family lied to the insurance company to get the policy in the first place.
By making a third party responsible for the final decision, Aetna is trying to take the blame off of itself and put it on a mysterious panel of doctors who must know what they're talking about. That should help its public persona, and I'd expect other insurers like UnitedHealth Group
For the most part, insurers don't have to worry too much about their public reputation, since employers are usually picking the health-care insurance company -- not the individual employees. But there are still some people who sign up with individual plans, and this policy change could help Aetna bring them in. The cost of the external review for the customers it doesn't want seems like a small price to pay to potentially gain additional customers.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. UnitedHealth is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth. The Fool's disclosure policy is like insurance for you.