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Anthem CEO Swedish is said to plan departure: WSJ

[SAN FRANCISCO] Less than a year after the implosion of his insurance megadeal, Anthem Inc chief executive officer Joseph Swedish is planning to step down, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr Swedish, 66, will be replaced by Gail Boudreaux, the former CEO of the insurance arm of UnitedHealth Group Inc and a seasoned executive in the managed-care industry, the Journal reported Friday. The plan will be announced as soon as next week, the newspaper said.

Representatives for Indianapolis-based Anthem didn't immediately respond to calls for comment after regular business hours.

Mr Swedish, who became CEO in 2013, struggled to find his footing during his tenure at the insurance giant. A former hospital executive with no experience in managed care, he attempted to transform Anthem through a US$48 billion merger with rival Cigna Corp.

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The deal fell apart amid mounting antitrust challenges and the relationship between the insurers quickly turned sour. They're still embroiled in a legal fight over who's to blame.

Anthem is also in a dispute with Express Scripts Holding Co, accusing the pharmacy benefit manager of overcharging it by billions of dollars. The companies have also sued each other. Meanwhile, Anthem has been retreating from Affordable Care Act markets due to uncertainty in how the Trump administration would manage the exchanges.

Still, shares have risen 47 per cent this year, reflecting strong performance across the insurance industry as the big companies have left the Obamacare markets and reduced related losses.

The appointment of Ms Boudreaux will be welcomed by shareholders, Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners, wrote in a note to clients on Friday. Ms Boudreaux, who would be a rare female CEO in the managed-care industry, "has earned her stripes and credibility with the Wall Street community at Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, and most notably at United Health," where she was credited with helping to turn around the insurer, Ms Gupte said.