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U.S. health insurer Aetna Inc. (AET - Analyst Report) has announced that AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (“ARMC”) has rejoined Aetna’s southern New Jersey network.

ARMC is a general medical and surgical hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Aetna’s members, with this agreement, will have more choice and improved access to hospitals and doctors in this service area.
About 200 ARMC doctors also joined Aetna’s network. Based in Atlantic County, New Jersey, the health system includes two hospitals: the Atlantic City Campus in Atlantic City and the Mainland Campus in Pomona. ARMC has Atlantic City's only cancer institute, heart institute and neonatal intensive care unit.

Aetna, with this agreement, is planning to expand its network of primary care physicians and specialists.

This agreement will provide a greater reach to Aetna in the southern New Jersey region. The company already boasts a wide network comprising 22 hospitals with more than 5,700 primary care and specialist physicians.

Aetna is aiming to bring more hospitals within its domain. Last week the company announced a new contract with Barnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest not-for-profit integrated healthcare delivery system. As per the contract, Aetna members who receive care at any of the Barnabas Health hospitals and facilities will continue to be covered at the in-network level of benefits.

Aetna expects to release its fourth-quarter earnings on Jan 31, 2013, before the opening bell. According to the Zacks Consensus Estimate, earnings are expected to be 96 cents per share, a penny below of the year-ago quarter earnings of 97 cents.

The stock retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We are also maintaining our long-term Neutral recommendation on its shares. The company’s peers, CIGNA Corp. (CI - Analyst Report) and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH - Analyst Report) also carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We have a long-term Neutral recommendation on both the stocks.

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