NU Online News Service, July 11, 12:23 p.m. – Aetna Inc., Hartford, is introducing a new Aetna HealthFund defined-contribution health program.

Aetna says the new plan is the first fully insured product from a national carrier that’s designed for midsize employers.

The program combines catastrophic health insurance coverage, traditional prescription coverage and complete coverage for routine preventive services with personal health accounts that can be used to pay for routine medical treatment expenses.

Participating employees can keep any unused cash in the personal health accounts at the end of the year and use the cash to pay medical bills in the following year, Aetna says.

Aetna will be offering the program to employers with as few as 51 eligible employees.

Aetna introduced a similar Aetna HealthFund program designed for large, national employers in September 2001.

Aetna is now selling the program for midsize employers in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and it expects to add the program in additional states as it receives state approvals. Aetna is also selling the program on a self-insured basis throughout the country.

States where the program is already available include California, Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania, Aetna says.

Program coverage will take effect Oct. 1.

Aetna says it expects to add additional defined-contribution products in 2003 that will give participants a choice between using the doctors and hospitals in Aetna’s provider networks and using providers from outside the Aetna networks.