NU Online News Service, Feb. 23, 2005, 5:50 p.m. EST

A large Hartford health insurer says it wants to be a big player in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit program.[@@]

The insurer, Aetna Inc., has applied for permission from federal Medicare regulators to provide Medicare drug coverage in all 50 states.

Aetna wants to sell coverage to individuals, and it also wants to sell coverage to employer-sponsored retiree health plans, the company says.

The new drug program is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, and companies that want to participate in the program must file initial applications by March 23.