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3 Facts About Anthem's New Boss

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Gail Boudreaux will be succeeding Joseph Swedish as the president and chief executive officer of Anthem Inc. on Nov. 20, the company announced today. 

Swedish, 66, who has been the company’s president, CEO and executive chairman, will continue to serve as chairman until May, then step down from the company board and serve as a senior advisor for two years, the company said.

(Related: Wichmann to Take Over as UnitedHealth CEO)

Anthem did not say why Swedish is stepping down from the CEO post, but, in the press release announcing the change, it included a statement from George Schaefer Jr., the lead independent director, thanking Swedish for his leadership.

The release also gives a statement from Swedish praising Boudreaux.

“Gail is widely recognized as a very successful executive in the health care industry,” Swedish said in the statement. “I am confident that her depth of experience will be of great benefit to our company, our associates and our members. It has been a privilege to lead Anthem and work with our more than 53,000 associates across the nation. As we move ahead, I look forward to working closely with Gail in this new capacity.”

The announcement means that Anthem will be the third major health insurer to make a CEO change in less than a year.

David Wichmann succeeded Stephen Hemsley as the CEO of UnitedHealth Group Inc. Sept. 1

Joseph Zubretsky, a former Aetna Inc. executive who has been running Hanover Insurance Group Inc., took over as the new CEO of Molina Healthcare Inc. today. Zubretsky succeeds Dr. J. Mario Molina, a son of Molina’s founder. J. Mario Molina was fired from the Molina CEO post in May.

Joseph Swedish

Anthem brought in Swedish, a longtime hospital company executive, to run Anthem in March 2013, as health insurers were preparing to comply with major new Affordable Care Act major medical insurance underwriting and benefits design restrictions and participate in the new ACA public exchange program.

Swedish succeeded Angela Braly, an executive who served as the company’s CEO from 1999 through 2012, when it operated under the name WellPoint Inc.

He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s degree in health administration from Duke University.

Swedish is a director of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and of America’s Health Insurance Plans. While under his leadership, Anthem stuck with AHIP as some other large insurers pulled out.

Gail Boudreaux

Boudreaux, 57, served as chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare, UnitedHealth’s health insurance unit, from January 2011 through November 2014, and as executive vice president at the parent company level from May 2008 through February 2015.

Here are three more things to know about Boudreaux.

 Joseph Swedish (Photo: Anthem)

Joseph Swedish (Photo: Anthem)

1.  She can talk about basketball.

Boudreaux, grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and played basketball at Dartmouth. She was a 6-foot-2 center and earned Ivy League Player of the Year honors for three straight years, starting in 1979, according to an NCAA profile.

2. She’s worked in the heart of the U.S. health insurance industry since 1983.

Boudreaux ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dartmouth and a master’s degree in business from Columbia.

She started out in insurance in the management development program at Aetna. She ended up serving as head of the Aetna group insurance unit.

She also has worked as president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and as executive vice president at Illinois Blue’s parent, Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp. Health Care Service Corp. is the parent of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico as well as in Illinois. Boudreaux ended up overseeing those plans well as the plan in Illinois.

3. She’s lived through many different health reform efforts.

In 2006, for example, Boudreaux helped lead a consortium of 20 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that tried to improve the state of health data analytics by setting up a Blue Health Intelligence system. Boudreaux said at the time that the main goal of the project was to help the participating plans develop more valuable employee benefits products.

While at UnitedHealth, she spoke on the company’s quarterly earnings calls with securities analysts about efforts to understand, implement and cope with the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

In October 2011, she saw UnitedHealth saw most competitors being rational about pricing.

In January 2012, she said she was seeing employers moving toward narrower networks and making more use of personal health accounts.

By April 2013, she was saying UnitedHealth would avoid having much to do with the Affordable Care Act public exchange system, at first, because of concerns about how well the system would work. 

—Read Molina Ousts Family Leadership, Sparking Takeover Speculation on ThinkAdvisor.

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