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Michael Neidorff (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

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Longtime Centene CEO Dies at 79

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What You Need to Know

  • Neidorff was the son of a dermatologist in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
  • He started out in St. Louis as an executive at Miles Laboratories.
  • He expanded Centene rapidly by making it a major player in the managed Medicaid plan market.

Michael Neidorff, 79, the chairman of Centene Corp., died Thursday from a long illness, the company said.

Neidorff started at the company that became Centene in 1996. He built what was a small, regional health insurer into the 57th-biggest company in the world, with 76,000 employees and $126 billion in 2021 revenue.

Neidorff accelerated the Clayton, Missouri-based insurer’s growth by steering it into the managed Medicaid market, and then by acquiring Health Net, WellCare and Magellan Health.

Centene is emphasizing Neidorff’s efforts to make the company a force for good.

“Michael made diversity and inclusion a central focus of his leadership, building an international corporation where women, people of color, LGBTQ, veterans, and people with disabilities all have opportunities to lead and excel,” the company said in an announcement of Neidorff’s death.

After Black residents of Ferguson, Missouri, clashed with police in 2014, Neidorff helped organization a $30 million support program for that community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Neidorff was a forceful advocates for vaccination programs and other pandemic control efforts.

The Son of a Physician

Neidorff was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1942, and grew up there. His father, Dr. A. Harvey Neidorff, was a dermatologist who served as the president of the local ragweed commission.

Neidorff earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University and a master’s degree from St. Francis College.

Early on, he worked in personnel at Miles Laboratories. He later held positions such as manager of industrial relations for Miles and director of planning and organization for Miles’ consumer products division. He moved to St. Louis for a new position at Miles in 1980.

A few years later, he entered the health insurance industry as the CEO of Physicians Health Plan of Greater St. Louis. He worked for several health insurers before joining the company then known as Coordinated Care Corp., and now as Centene.

Centene Leadership Transition

Neidorff began this year as Centene’s president and CEO as well as its chairman.

Centene said in February that Neidorff would be taking a medical leave of absence, and that it would form a four-member office of the chairman to oversee day-to-day company operations.

In March, the company board named Sarah London, an executive with venture capital experience, to succeed Neidorff as CEO

Michael Neidorff (Photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg)