David Wichmann to replace Stephen Hemsley as UnitedHealth CEO

Major changes are afoot at UnitedHealth Group.

UnitedHealth Group announced Wednesday that as of Sept. 1, David Wichmann—the company's current president—will replace Stephen Hemsley as the company's CEO. 

“This is the right time for this transition to take place, as the company is performing strongly and has a positive outlook for the foreseeable future, and Dave Wichmann is the right choice to succeed as CEO for that future,” Hemsley said.

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UnitedHealth’s adjusted net earnings grew 26% year over year in the second quarter of 2017—beating Wall Street estimates—and the company raised its full-year earnings outlook. It also posted a strong first-quarter earnings report, its first after withdrawing from all but three states’ Affordable Care Act exchanges for 2017.

One of the major drivers of UnitedHealth’s success is its fast-growing healthcare services arm, Optum. The company is also a major player in the Medicare Advantage sector, accounting for the largest chunk—24%—of enrollees in private Medicare plans in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

After he is succeeded by Wichmann, Hemsley will move to the newly created role of executive chairman of UnitedHealth’s board of directors. Richard Burke, the current chairman, will transition to the role of lead independent director.

Wichmann has a long history with UnitedHealth, as he first joined the company in 1998. He previously served as chief financial officer from 2011 until mid-2016 and has served as president and led the company’s benefits business, UnitedHealthcare, since 2014. He also currently leads UnitedHealth’s activities in Brazil.

Wichmann said it’s a “humbling honor” to take on the head leadership role at UnitedHealth, especially as the industry undergoes transformation.

“Healthcare will continue to change, but this is an enterprise built for change: innovative, adaptable and consumer-centric,” he said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify Stephen Hemsley's future role with UnitedHealth.