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WellPoint to change name to Anthem

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WellPoint, one of the largest investor-owned health insurers in the country, is looking to rebrand itself as Anthem, pending shareholder approval.

Joe Swedish, WellPoint's CEO, told Modern Healthcare the insurer was making the change to better connect with consumers in a “radically changing” health care environment. After surveying 55,000 people about their health care preferences, officials said they found brand was at the top of consumers' list, along with price and provider network.

“We're dealing with a consumer-oriented industry that now is being put in a position to make health care decisions for themselves and their families that is based around more information around access, quality and price,” said Mr. Swedish, a former health system CEO. “We have to demonstrate a brand that gives each person a value proposition.”

Mr. Swedish also said the Anthem name will hopefully eliminate brand confusion among its 48,000 employees and large provider network, in addition to its millions of members. The insurer, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, took on the WellPoint name in 2004 when WellPoint Health Networks and Anthem merged. However, most of its plans carry the Anthem name, including in California, Virginia and Connecticut.

“This will help tremendously in aligning our relationships” with all stakeholders, Mr. Swedish said.

WellPoint, based in Indianapolis, had 37.3 million members as of June 30. The company has moved more aggressively than Aetna and UnitedHealth to participate in the state and federal health insurance exchanges created under the healthcare reform law. In the second quarter of this year, the insurer added 769,000 exchange members, predicting profit margins for exchange plans will range between 3% and 5%. Mr. Swedish said he also expects the Anthem name “absolutely will help” WellPoint as it ramps up its exchange efforts.

The name change is believed to go into effect by the end of this year. Shareholders must approve the move and will have a chance to do so at a special meeting on Nov. 5.

Bob Herman writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.