Anthem picks former UnitedHealth executive to become CEO

Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem has picked a former top executive from its biggest competitor to replace Joseph Swedish as its next CEO.

Anthem said Monday that Gail K. Boudreaux will start Nov. 20. Swedish will serve as executive chairman until May and then as senior adviser for a couple more years.

A statement Monday from Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc. gave no reason for the departure of Swedish. But a company spokeswoman said the change has been part of succession planning by the company's board of directors for more than a year.

Company shares jumped Monday after Anthem laid out that plan.

Boudreaux, 57, served as a CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the health insurance arm of UnitedHealth Group Inc., until November 2014. Anthem noted that she was responsible for about $120 billion in revenue, and she managed around 60,000 employees.

Anthem, based in Indianapolis, provides health coverage to more than 40 million people in several states, including big markets like New York and California. The company grew its enrollment under Swedish, 66, a former hospital executive who joined the company in March 2013, several months after former CEO Angela Braly resigned.

The insurer also changed its corporate name from WellPoint under Swedish's watch and recently announced plans to create a pharmacy benefit management business by partnering with CVS Health Corp.

Anthem also tried unsuccessfully to buy rival Cigna Corp. in a messy, $48-billion deal that antitrust regulators resisted. Anthem abandoned that deal earlier this year and is fighting with Cigna in court over its terms.

Shares of Anthem jumped to a new all-time high price of $220 Monday and closed trading up 2.3 percent at $216.59.

Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth and Anthem are the nation's two largest health insurers based on enrollment. Those companies and other major insurers have seen their stock prices jump at least 50 percent in the last 12 months.