Aetna Expects Higher First-Quarter Operating Earnings of $1.68 to $1.73 Per Share

Full-Year Operating Earnings Guidance Raised to $6.60 to $6.75 Per Share

HARTFORD, Conn., March 12, 2004 — Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) today announced that it expects to report first-quarter 2004 operating earnings of $1.68 to $1.73 per share, excluding any prior-period reserve development. The company also said it now anticipates full-year operating earnings, excluding any other items, of $6.60 to $6.75 per share, based on flat weighted average diluted shares of 160 million.1

Previous guidance for the first quarter was $1.50 to $1.55 per share and for the full year was $6.25 to $6.35 per share. Aetna will announce full first-quarter financial results on April 29.

"This early, positive look at our first-quarter financial performance is further evidence of Aetna’s growing success in the marketplace," Chairman and CEO John W. Rowe, M.D., said. "Key contributors to the improved outlook are favorable trends in medical and pharmacy membership, moderate medical costs on both commercial and Medicare business and operating expense efficiency resulting from the higher membership."

Aetna is one of the nation’s leading providers of health care, dental, pharmacy, group life, disability and long-term care benefits, serving approximately 13.0 million medical members, 10.9 million dental members, 7.4 million pharmacy members and 12.3 million group insurance customers, as of December 31, 2003. The company has expansive nationwide networks of more than 600,000 health care services providers, including over 362,000 primary care and specialist physicians and 3,626 hospitals. For more information about Aetna, please visit the company’s web site at www.aetna.com.

1 These projected operating earnings exclude any prior-period reserve developments as well as any net realized capital gains (losses). As the Company is unable to project these amounts at this time, it cannot reconcile projected operating earnings to projected net income calculated under generally accepted accounting principles. Management believes that operating earnings provide a useful comparison of its underlying business performance from period to period. Management uses operating earnings to assess business performance and to make decisions regarding its operations and allocation of resources among its businesses. Operating earnings is also the measure reported to the Chief Executive Officer for these purposes.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION; CAUTIONARY STATEMENT -- Certain information in this press release is forward looking, including the projection of first quarter and full year 2004 operating earnings per share and other statements regarding the company’s outlook for 2004. Forward-looking information is based on management’s estimates, assumptions and projections, and is subject to significant uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond Aetna’s control. Important risk factors could cause actual future results and other future events to differ materially from those currently estimated by management. Those risk factors include, but are not limited to: unanticipated increases in medical costs (including increased medical utilization, increased pharmacy costs, increases resulting from unfavorable changes in contracting or re-contracting with providers, changes in membership mix to lower-premium or higher-cost products or membership-adverse selection; as well as changes in medical cost estimates due to the necessary extensive judgment that is used in the medical cost estimation process, the considerable variability inherent in such estimates, and the sensitivity of such estimates to changes in medical claims payment patterns and changes in medical cost trends); decreases in membership or failure to achieve desired membership growth due to significant competition or other factors; increases in medical costs or Group Insurance claims resulting from any acts of terrorism; the ability to reduce administrative expenses while maintaining targeted levels of service and operating performance, and to improve relations with providers while taking actions to reduce medical costs; the ability to successfully implement Aetna’s new operating model to a projected growing membership base; lower levels of investment income from continued low interest rates; adverse government regulation (including legislative proposals or court decisions eliminating or reducing ERISA pre-emption of state laws that would increase potential litigation exposure, and other proposals, such as patients’ rights legislation, that would increase potential litigation exposure or mandate coverage of certain health benefits); adverse pricing actions by government payors; changes in size, product mix and medical cost experience of membership in key markets; and the outcome, including any negotiated resolution, of various litigation and regulatory matters, including ongoing reviews of business practices by various regulatory agencies. For more discussion of important risk factors that may materially affect Aetna, and for information about Aetna’s historical results of operations and financial condition, please see Aetna’s 2003 Annual Report on Form 10-K, on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.



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