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HARTFORD, Conn. (

TheStreet

) --

Aetna

(AET)

reported third-quarter operating earnings of $308.2 million, or 69 cents a share, a decrease of 43% from a year earlier, as commercial underwriting margins declined.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters estimated operating earnings of 66 cents a share.

In a statement Thursday, Aetna said the lower margins were because of a "significant" increase in commercial medical costs, partially offset by a rise in health care premiums.

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Net income in the quarter rose 18% to $326.2 million, or 73 cents a share, up from $277.3 million, or 58 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 9% to $8.70 billion.

The insurer projects full-year 2009 operating earnings of $2.75 a share.

-- Reported by Joseph Woelfel in New York

.

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