- WellPoint Inc., the second-largest U.S.-based insurer, announced that it will change its name to Anthem Inc., the brand that it now uses for the majority of its healthcare insurance products.
- As the insurance industry shifts towards selling more plans to individuals rather than corporations, WellPoint's change represents a "major pivot" in a more consumer-oriented direction, according to CEO Joe Swedish. WellPoint is a big player in the ACA exchanges, enrolling 769,000 people through the second quarter of this year.
- Shareholders still have to vote on the change in November. Some subsidiary brands, like Medicaid-focused Amerigroup, will be unaffected.
WellPoint's decision reflects a brand reversal that dates back to its merger with Anthem Inc. in 2004, when the two combined companies took on WellPoint's name. Both companies were the amalgamation of several state-level Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, and after the merger, WellPoint continued to expand the Anthem brand across many of its 14 Blues states (although some states, like New York's Empire BlueCross BlueShield, kept legacy names). California, where WellPoint owns Anthem Blue Cross, is the largest state plan in the company's portfolio.
This change makes a lot of sense in a market where individual consumers are purchasing care plans, not the H.R. departments of big corporations. Anthem is simply a better-known brand that WellPoint, making across-the-board brand consolidation a sensible move.
"My gut is that the WellPoint name means nothing to the man on the street," said Christopher Lehmann, executive creative director at branding firm Landor Associates. The change, says Lehmann, will "create a greater sense of seamlessness…that will make more sense to their consumers."
As for the impact on providers, it's likely to be minimal (aside from the trickle down impact if this does what the insurer wants it to do and attracts more customers). This is a branding shift, not a fundamental change in WellPoint's—now Anthem's—business model.