SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Aetna Inc. will stop selling individual health insurance policies in California next month, just weeks after opting out of the exchange that is being established as part of the national health care reforms, a state regulator said Tuesday.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he was disappointed in Aetna's decision because consumers need more choices. The decision does not affect people who have Aetna insurance through their employer.
"This is not good news for California consumers," Jones said in a statement. "A competitive market with more choices for consumers is important, as we implement the Affordable Care Act and health insurance coverage is a requirement."
Aetna is a relatively small player in California's individual health insurance market. According to 2011 figures compiled by the California HealthCare Foundation, Aetna has about 5 percent of the state's individual health market. By comparison, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Kaiser share 87 percent.
Aetna says it has about 58,000 individual enrollees in the state and expects to have about 49,000 by the end of the year. It plans to withdraw from the state at the end of the year but will continue to offer small and large group plans, as well as Medicare, dental and life insurance products.
Starting Oct. 1, those seeking to buy their own health insurance will be directed to Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange. Aetna was not among 13 insurance carriers that will sell individual coverage to millions of Californians through the exchange.
Under state law, Aetna will not be allowed to sell individual policies in California for five years once it leaves that market, according to Jones' office.