(AP photo/Douglas Heale)

Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) is starting to get a substantial number of enrollees coming in both through the new public exchange system and through private exchanges.

Aetna Chairman Mark Bertolini said the company enrolled 230,000 paid members through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges, and 130,000 through private exchanges.

“We now project we could end the year with approximately 450,000 paid public exchange members,” Bertolini said.

Aetna is including the public and private exchange enrollees in its commercial business membership numbers, Bertolini said.

Aetna does not have enough claims from the exchange plan enrollees to draw meaningful conclusions about their health, but the early medical cost indicators for the enrollees are “within a manageable range as compared to our pricing assumptions,” Bertolini said.

Aetna now sells “qualified health plan” coverage through public exchanges in 17 states, and the company’s bias is to keep its current public exchange footprint in 2015, Bertolini said.

Bertolini noted that, in the private exchange market, large employers are just starting to implement plans to move to private exchanges. Midsize employers might start moving later this year.

The overall pricing environment has been “rational,” but some of the new, nonprofit, member-owned CO-OP plans have started out charging what Aetna believes to be irrationally low prices, Bertolini said.

“We actually withdrew from those markets,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and other Aetna executives talked about exchange participation today during a conference call, when they went over first-quarter earnings.

Aetna completed the acquisition of Coventry Health Care Inc. in May 2013, and that affects comparisons of Aetna’s latest results with the comparable results from 2013.

Aetna is reporting $666 million in net income for the first quarter on $14 billion in operating revenue, up from $490 million in net income on $9.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2013.

The company ended the quarter providing or administering coverage for 23 million people, up from 18 million people a year earlier.

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