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What’s In a Name?

By Clive Riddle, December 3, 2014

Wellpoint is now Anthem. The re-titling of the national health benefits company was publicly announced months ago, the new corporate website has been designated as, and the change from the New York Stock Exchange ticker from WLP to ANTM became effective today.  

WellPoint Health Networks and Anthem merged in 2004, with WellPoint assuming the corporate name of the merged company. Why the name change back to Anthem ten years later? It’s mostly about branding. Joseph Swedish, Anthem’s President and CEO tells us “the change to Anthem will help us better communicate our values and simplify the way we connect with our associates, consumers, investors, and the communities we call home.” Simply put, the company has lots of products around the nation branded as Anthem. They have none branded as WellPoint.

So why did they take the WellPoint name in the first place? Branding may have been less the issue at the time than negotiations between two large BBCBS for-profit corporations. The corporate headquarters went to Anthem’s Indianapolis, but with the WellPoint name. WellPoint’s Leonard Schaeffer got the title Chairman of the Board; Anthem’s Larry Glasscock took the title President and CEO. A telling sign of the shifts in competing corporate cultures and recognition of the branding issue would have been in 2009 when the flagship from the WellPoint camp, Blue Cross of California, assumed the trade name Anthem Blue Cross.

The era of corporate names that are independent of the subsidiary divisions and products seems to have faded as branding is deemed more essential.

As we dig around through the graveyard of bygone healthcare names, the branding issue is forever complicated by mergers, acquisitions, spinoffs and scandals. 

Humana once was a hospital company that developed a health plan division, back when corporate integration of healthcare was in vogue in the 1980’s, before falling out of favor in the 1990’s and re-discovered this decade. Humana’s hospital division was spun off as Galen Healthcare, which was acquired by Columbia, which merged with HCA to become Columbia/HCA, and finally just HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), partially to simplify branding, and perhaps more to re-brand away from the Columbia identity after a Medicare fraud scandal in 1997.

Tenet was once National Medical Enterprises, becoming Tenet in 1995 partly to re-brand after large acquisitions, but motivated to distance from the NME name after scandals with NME’s Psychiatric hospitals division.

In New York, Group Health Inc. and Health Insurance Plan of New York merged in 2006, under the corporate name EmblemHealth. Eventually, the corporate name became branded as a product name. Such strategies - to deploy the corporate name in branding - have become much more prevalent during this decade.

But then there is Regence, the Pacific Northwest BCBS company who in 2011 announced their new corporate name would be Cambia Health Solutions, while the health plan products are still branded Regence.  So what’s in a name – and in 2024 will Cambia pull a WellPoint and re-title themselves as Regence?

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