Aetna Inc. says it believes its preferred provider organization plans can stand up to the same kind of detailed quality evaluations that its health maintenance organizations now face.

Aetna, Hartford, says it will be seeking PPO accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, at the national level.

The national-level accreditation would apply to Aetna plans in all 50 states.

Up till now, managed care companies have been slow to put their PPOs through the rigorous NCQA accreditation process, and no national PPO plans hold NCQA accreditation.

Aetna believes it can use the PPO accreditation data to improve its plans as well as to communicate with employers and plan members, the company says.

“Aetna’s choice to bring their PPO forward for NCQA accreditation is a reflection of their commitment to meeting the toughest standards,” NCQA President Margaret O’Kane says in a statement. “I commend their decision and look forward to other PPOs following Aetna’s lead.”