NU Online News Service, June 29, 2004, 3:54 p.m. EDT

Aetna Inc., Hartford, is adding more markets and more specialties to its Aexcel preferred specialist network program.[@@]

Program managers choose the specialists in the program network by considering quality indicators, such as complication rates and repeat procedure rates, as well as cost.

Aetna plans to make the Aexcel program network available as an option to employers in Atlanta, Connecticut, Houston, Los Angeles, the New York City area and the Washington, D.C., area by January 2005.

The company also will add specialists in the fields of neurology, neurosurgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, urology and vascular surgery.

Aetna began testing the program in January by offering it as an alternative to traditional provider networks in the Dallas-Fort Worth, North Florida and Seattle-Western Washington markets. The original specialties in the program were cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, gastroenterology, general surgery, obstetrics-gynecology and orthopedics.

Starting in January 2005, providers in all 12 specialties will be available in all of the 9 Aexcel program markets, Aetna says.

Today, the Aexcel program has attracted 10 employers with health plans that cover more than 64,000 members, Aetna reports.