WellPoint to change corporate name back to Anthem

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Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., the second-largest health insurer in the U.S., plans to change its name back to Anthem Inc., the brand under which it sells most of its coverage, the company disclosed Tuesday.

WellPoint and other large health insurers find themselves increasingly marketing directly to consumers, as Obamacare requires most uninsured Americans to obtain coverage and employers thrust more responsibility for costs on their workers. The company sells plans in 14 of the health-care law’s new insurance exchanges, in most cases under its Anthem brand.  The company doesn't sell plans under the WellPoint name.

WellPoint Inc. was formed in 2004 when Indianapolis-based insurer Anthem Inc. completed a $16.5 billion merger with California-based WellPoint Health Networks Inc.

The name change will be completed by the end of the year, pending shareholder approval, the company said in a statement. The next enrollment period for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare begins Nov. 15.

“We’re no longer a health insurer; we’re truly a health plan engaging with individuals as opposed with large blocks of business,” WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish said in a phone interview. “There was this public brand that was a mixed kind of message. Our own employees had difficulty discerning between WellPoint, Anthem and which one is really running the show.”

WellPoint has about 2 million customers who buy the company’s plans directly for themselves and their families, including 769,000 through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Changing the company’s name will also end confusion for large employers who hire the insurer to manage their health benefits and for state and federal regulators, Swedish said.

“Split brands work only in certain circumstances,” he said. “There’s nothing more personal than health-care services. That’s why we felt a singular brand was critically important.”

The insurer plans to pick a new ticker symbol for its stock, which currently trades under "WLP," and it will need a new Web address to replace www.wellpoint.com .

A WellPoint spokeswoman declined to detail the company's cost for the name change.

WellPoint will hold a shareholder vote on the change in November.

The company's shares closed at $108.66 on Tuesday and have climbed more than 17 percent so far this year, hitting several all-time highs.

Anthem Inc. was originally formed in 1995 when Indianapolis-based insurer Associated Group merged with Cincinnati-based Community Mutual Insurance Co. Anthem demutualized and conducted an initial public offering in 2001.

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