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Aetna is a “national” health insurance company – as distinct from a “regional” insurer such as Blue Shield of California which operates exclusively in California. Aetna offers health insurance in all 50 states and in terms of membership is the third largest health insurer in the United States behind Wellpoint (Anthem Blue Cross) and United Healthcare (Pacificare.) In California, Aetna ranks third in number of members among health insurance companies, again behind Anthem Blue Cross and United Healthcare. The California ranking excludes HMO membership. If one were to include HMO members, Kaiser and Blue Shield of California would likely have a larger share of the California commercial health insurance market than Aetna.

As a national health insurance company, Aetna is a good choice for an employer with employees located in states out side of California. In the California mid-size employer group market (51 – 250 employees) Aetna is able to offer an HMO to out of state employees. With the exception of CIGNA, all other California health insurance companies in the mid – size group market can only offer a PPO plan to out-of-state employees.

Aetna offers competitively priced individual health insurance plans in California. One unique feature of Aetna’s California individual and family plans is that none of them offer maternity coverage. Aetna’s individual and small group Health Savings Account (HSA) compatible plans are competitively priced and many include “embedded deductibles.”

Aetna was founded in 1850 and operated as a life insurer and property and casualty (liability) insurance company for most of the time. In 1996 Aetna sold its property and casualty business to Travelers Insurance Group. That same year it merged with U.S. Healthcare to begin the transition to a health insurance company. In the late 1990’s Aetna purchased New York Life’s health insurance business (NYLCare Health Plans) and Prudential Life Insurance Company’s health insurance business (Prudential Health Care.) In 2000 Aetna sold its financial services and international business to Dutch insurer ING, thus completing Aetna’s transition to a company devoted exclusively to health insurance and related services.