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WellPoint names hospital executive Swedish new CEO

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm •  Published: February 12, 2013

The health care overhaul will expand insurance coverage to millions of people starting next year, when online exchanges debut to help people buy coverage and state and federally funded Medicaid programs expand. Insurers will have to adjust to competing for business on those exchanges, where many people will be able to buy health insurance with help from income-based tax credits.

Care providers and payers also are collaborating more to improve quality and cut down on wasteful spending, and Swedish said he can bring insight into how those collaborations work best to his new role.

"I think we're all striving to create engagement with consumers that has not existed in the past, particularly related to the formation of exchanges," he said. "You have to have hypersensitivity regarding pricing strategies, transparency around quality and safety."

He said serving on Coventry's board gave him a "gimlet-eyed view" of the health insurance business, and he's run his companies with the same expectations placed upon publicly traded companies.

"We have metrics that are as good if not better than most," he said. "We've been, at Trinity Health, manically focused on a double a bond rating."

WellPoint's selection makes sense to Sarah James, who covers health insurers for Wedbush Securities. She said a big trend in the industry is vertical integration, in which health insurers buy doctor practices and clinics to streamline care and make it more efficient.

WellPoint did this in 2011, when it completed the acquisition of CareMore Health Group, which runs more than two dozen clinics that coordinate care for patients.

"To bring in someone who comes from the provider side makes perfect sense," she said.

WellPoint finished 2012 with two strong quarterly performances. But it also has been hit by enrollment losses as employers cut jobs and reduced the number of people covered by employer-sponsored insurance, and it has struggled with higher-than-expected claims coming from its Medicare Advantage business in California.

WellPoint shares fell 76 cents to $65.25 in after-hours trading.