COOs take on greater role in health insurance industry

In many health insurance companies, chief operating officers (COOs) have taken on new responsibilities that go well beyond the traditional role they once played, according to Managed Healthcare Executive.

In fact, the role of the COO has become more interchangeable with the job of the CEO. Some CEOs have taken on the position of COO when they moved to another company, and some COOs have made the move into the CEO role during a leadership transition, the report said. For instance, J.D. Hickey, who was COO at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, recently became CEO of the organization, as did Kenneth Burdick at WellCare Health Plans. Both had prior experience as a CEO.

The role of the COO has been expanding, with responsibilities becoming more strategically focused and aligned with those of the CEO, according to the article. A review of recent recruitment ads for COOs found they are expected to do plenty of tasks once considered the realm of the CEO.

One of the reasons for the shift is that healthcare has become a retail industry that incorporates sales, marketing, advertising and customer service to satisfy consumers--namely patients and purchasers, the report said.

Insurance companies also are thinking differently about healthcare. For example, Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish says insurers need to move away from the traditional mindset of being business-to-business firms and focus on connecting with customers and providers. Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said his company has recognized the trend of consumerization, as it will provide members with tools to virtually tend to their health needs in order for the insurer to reach its latest goal to make the communities it serves 20 percent healthier by 2020, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. 

To learn more:
- read the report