Aetna Inc. has agreed to increase rates for 94,000 California small group plan enrollees just 1.1%, rather than 4%.

Aetna, Hartford (NYSE:AET), will apply the rates to policyholders in the plans who renew their coverage in July, August or September, according to officials at the California Department of Insurance.

The original 4% increase was part of a quarterly rate filing that took effect July 1.

Now that Aetna has reduced the size of the latest quarterly increase, the annualized rate of increase for the affected plans is 13.7%, officials say.

In June, a California unit of WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis (NYSE:WLP), agreed to cut the quarterly premium increase for some group health products sold in California to 3%, from 6%, officials say. That change affected small group plans with a total of about 18,000 enrollees.

The California Legislature has been considering Assembly Bill 52, a bill that would limit California health insurers to one rate increase per year and give the state’s insurance commissioner the authority to reject rate increases.

In a press release, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says the only thing he can do now about rate increases he believes to be excessive is to post information about the increases on the Web.

- Allison Bell

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