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Aetna Selling Plan For Uninsured

May 4, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Aetna Inc. is launching a no-frills health insurance policy geared to help the 25 million working Americans who are uninsured.

The program, called Affordable HealthChoices, will be sold to employers who can’t afford to offer a policy to their workers or have had to drop the insurance benefit because of higher premiums.

Aetna’s new policy will cost as little as $46 per person, or $156 per family, per month. The employer can elect to pay all or part of the premium.

So far, the new program has been approved in Texas, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. Aetna hopes to soon get approval by regulators in 25 other states.

Unlike Aetna’s health maintenance organization, which has a prescription drug benefit and pays for most hospital and physician services, the new plan will only have minimal coverage. For instance, one new option would only offer hospital coverage of $500 a day for the first three days and $200 days for the next four to 10 days. Hospital bills typically can reach thousands of dollars even for short visits.

Giant health insurers such as Aetna have been criticized for charging expensive premiums, which has contributed to the number of uninsured rising from 38 million in 1992 to 43 million in 1999.

Workplaces must employ a minimum of two employees to be eligible. The new program will not be sold directly to individuals.

Aetna hopes employers which presently do not offer health insurance coverage will sign up. Still, one concern is some employers might drop the more extensive policy and fall back to the new less expensive option.

``In a very tight job market that is unlikely to happen,″ said Aetna spokeswoman Jill Griffiths. ``We think employers will want to offer the most comprehensive benefit package they can.″

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