Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish to step down, will be replaced by Gail Boudreaux

After nearly five years at the helm, Anthem President and CEO Joseph Swedish is set to step down.

Effective Nov. 20, Swedish will be replaced by Gail Boudreaux, Anthem announced Monday. Boudreaux served as CEO of UnitedHealthcare from 2011-2014, after which she founded and ran the advisory firm GKB Global Health LLC.

Before her time at UnitedHealth, Boudreaux served as the executive vice president of Health Care Service Corp., and she began her career at Aetna.

“The Anthem board is confident Gail will draw from her extensive experience to deliver strong operating performance, excellent financial results and a laser focus on customer experience and shareholder value,” said George A. Schaefer Jr., the lead independent director of Anthem’s board of directors. “In an evolving industry, Gail brings the right skills for the times.”

RELATED: Anthem inks deal to acquire Medicare Advantage insurer, reports strong Q3 results

Gail Boudreaux

Boudreaux is credited with leading a turnaround at UnitedHealth in late 2007 and early 2008, working with then-CEO Stephen Hemsley in “addressing issues around culture, the PacifiCare integration and the departure of [former CEO] Bill McGuire,” Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte wrote in a research note.

Given that Boudreaux is a “highly seasoned” managed care executive, Gupte sees her as the right person to lead Anthem’s new phase of growth—including the rollout of its integrated pharmacy benefit manager IngenioRx.

In fact, Anthem’s decision to build its own PBM, with the help of CVS, is likely an attempt to keep up with UnitedHealth’s highly successful in-house PBM, OptumRx. A rumored deal between CVS and Aetna may be also be driven by the need to compete with OptumRx—as well as Amazon, which is poised to disrupt the drug-distribution business.

RELATED: Why a CVS-Aetna merger makes sense—even if it leaves Anthem ‘jilted at the altar’

As for Swedish, he will serve as executive chairman of Anthem’s board of directors until May 2018, after which he will serve as a senior adviser for two years. He presided over Anthem in challenging times, including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act exchanges as well as the insurer's failed attempt to acquire Cigna. 

Anthem’s leadership change is not the only recent C-suite shakeup among health insurance companies. In August, UnitedHealth announced that David Wichmann would replace Hemsley as CEO. And in late September, Optima Health CEO and Sentara Healthcare Senior Corporate Vice President Michael M. Dudley announced that he will retire at the end of the year, and CareFirst CEO Chet Burrell said he would be retiring in mid-2018.