Anthem Inc.'s board has named CEO Joseph R. Swedish as chairman, consolidating leadership roles that were once an impediment to its planned $48 billion combination with rival health insurer Cigna Corp.
The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier said Wednesday after markets closed that Swedish will replace George A. Schaefer Jr., who will stay on the board as independent lead director.
Swedish joined Indianapolis-based Anthem in March 2013, and the added role reflects the board's confidence in his leadership as the company closes the Cigna acquisition and then integrate the businesses, Schaefer said in a written statement from the insurer.
Anthem had said in late July, when it announced the Cigna deal, that Swedish would serve as chairman and CEO of the combined company.
A month before that, Anthem had said that the question of leadership roles for the combined company was a stumbling block to a deal. Anthem said in June that the board of Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna Corp. had insisted that its leader, CEO David Cordani, be appointed chief executive of the combined company.
Cigna said it was concerned about one person, Swedish, taking on the roles of chairman and CEO and being responsible for integrating the two insurers.
But the companies wound up giving Cordani a seat on the combined company's board and naming him president and chief operating officer.
The Anthem-Cigna combination will create the nation's largest health insurer by enrollment with about 53 million U.S. patients. The companies expect that deal to close in the second half of next year. But it's still being reviewed by state and federal regulators who are studying the impact such a combination may have on health insurance competition.
Schaefer, a former CEO of Fifth Third Bancorp, had served chairman since May 2013 and has been a member of Anthem's board since 2001.
Shares of Indianapolis-based Anthem Inc. were up $1.81, to $134.27 each, on Thursday morning.