(AP photo/Denis Poroy)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Hartford-based Aetna Life Insurance Co. has told Connecticut insurance officials that it has withdrawn from the state’s health insurance exchange.

In a letter to the Connecticut Insurance Department, released Monday, the insurer said it “reluctantly” decided to withdraw from the insurance marketplace.

“Please be assured this is not a step taken lightly, and was made as part of national review of our exchange strategy,” Bruce Campbell, Aetna’s senior actuary, wrote.

Correspondence posted on the Connecticut department’s website shows Aetna and the agency disagreed over how Aetna had calculated its proposed rates for the insurance marketplace.

Aetna also has withdrawn from offering individual plans in Maryland and Georgia, said Susan Millerick, an Aetna spokesman.

“We have spent considerable time identifying those states in which we can be competitive and add the most value to the market,” said Millerick, adding that Aetna is continuing to analyze its overall company strategy, including the impact of Aetna’s recent acquisition of Coventry Health Care Inc.

Kevin Counihan, the chief executive of the health exchange, known as Access Health CT, said that, despite Aetna’s departure, residents still will have a broad number of health care choices.

With Aetna’s departure, three insurers will now offer individual coverage through Access Health CT or AHCT. They include Anthem, ConnectiCare and the nonprofit HealthyCT.

“The good news today is that consumers and businesses will retain several, high quality choices, and today’s decision also shows we at AHCT are doing our best to hold rates down,” Counihan said in a written statement. “Our goal is clear: we want to bring affordable, quality health care to Connecticut’s residents and small businesses.”

There are currently three insurers offering plans to small groups, which include businesses with less than 50 employees. They include Anthem, HealthyCT and United Healthcare. ConnectiCare recently withdrew from offering small-group coverage.

News of Aetna’s withdrawal comes as the Connecticut department is expected to act on the proposed rates following a lengthy review. Counihan credited that process with reducing rates submitted by several of the participating carriers.

Open enrollment in Access Health CT begins Oct. 1

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