WellPoint Inc. (WLP), the second-largest health insurer in the U.S., plans to change its name to Anthem Inc., the brand under which it sells most of its coverage.
WellPoint and other large health insurers find themselves increasingly marketing directly to consumers, as Obamacare requires most uninsured Americans to obtain coverage and employers thrust more responsibility for costs on their workers. The company sells plans in 14 of the health-care law’s new insurance exchanges, in most cases under its Anthem brand.
The name change will be completed by the end of the year, pending shareholder approval, the company said yesterday in a statement. The next enrollment period for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare begins Nov. 15.
“We’re no longer a health insurer, we’re truly a health plan engaging with individuals as opposed with large blocks of business,” Joseph Swedish, WellPoint’s chief executive officer, said in a phone interview. “There was this public brand that was a mixed kind of message. Our own employees had difficulty discerning between WellPoint, Anthem and which one is really running the show.”
WellPoint has about 2 million customers who buy the company’s plans directly for themselves and their families, including 769,000 through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
Changing the Indianapolis-based company’s name will also end confusion for large employers who hire the insurer to manage their health benefits and for state and federal regulators, Swedish said.
“Split brands work only in certain circumstances,” he said. “There’s nothing more personal than health-care services. That’s why we felt a singular brand was critically important.”
The company’s decision was reported earlier yesterday by The Wall Street Journal.
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