LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini sought to reassure an audience of more than 1,000 Louisville-area businesspeople on Tuesday night that his company’s planned takeover of Louisville-based Humana will be good for the city.

Aetna, a Connecticut-based health insurer, has offices all over the world – from the Middle East and “far east” to the Pacific Rim and Europe, Bertolini said.

"But we have made a commitment to only one community as the location for the most important part of our business, and that’s Louisville," Bertolini said to a round of applause at Greater Louisville Inc.’s annual meeting.

Following the $37 billion sale, which is slated to close this year, Aetna has said Louisville will become the home base of its government business such as Humana’s specialty, Medicare Advantage, but that the combined company’s headquarters will remain in Connecticut with Bertolini at the helm.

The Louisville-based government division is expected to account for 56 percent of the combined company’s annual revenue, Aetna and Humana have said.

Bertolini’s keynote address at the chamber of commerce event lasted about 12 minutes, and he did not say anything more about the sale’s effect on the city.

Earlier Tuesday, the two companies began their "integration planning work" with meetings in Louisville, Bertolini said.

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard, who introduced Bertolini and joined him for questions on stage, also sought to dispel fears about Louisville jobs.

"I know what’s on everyone’s mind here. It’s, ‘What is this transaction going to do to Humana and how is it going to help or hurt the city and state?'" Broussard said. "… I think and believe, and Mark believes, this city and this state will be a net beneficiary of the transaction … I really believe you’re going to see more and more jobs created in the community."

The bulk of Bertolini’s speech was devoted to his broader vision of a healthcare system that treats patients in a more holistic way and eliminates some $900 billion in "duplication and overuse of services" annually.

He talked about an accident 10 years ago in which he broke his neck in five places and nearly died, but said he checked himself out of the hospital early to avoid counter-productive treatment once he woke up from a coma.

"They fixed me because I was able to walk and I was able to leave the hospital. They did not fix me as a human being," he said. "I was in pain. I could not think straight. I was on a huge number of opiates – seven different drugs -- and I was stoned all the time."

Bertolini went on to blame the heroin epidemic on the over-prescription of pain-killing opiate drugs and said he now uses things like acupuncture and yoga to manage his condition.

“If we build this health system this way, the community is taking care of each other,” he said.

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