That's despite the general belief that Swedish, 66, has had a successful run as CEO of Anthem. Swedish, who declined comment through a spokesperson, took a troubled health insurance company with stagnant growth and turned it around during his nearly five years at the helm, equity analysts agreed. His predecessor, Angela Braly, resigned in mid-2012 amid mounting criticism from shareholders who were unhappy about the payer's financial performance. During her tenure, which began in 2007, Anthem's share price fell 42% to $57 at the time she stepped down.
While Swedish has been CEO, Anthem's share price has soared along with most of the major publicly traded health insurers, rising 230% to $212. Ana Gupte, industry analyst at Leerink Partners, credited Swedish with lining up a stellar leadership team, improving Anthem's Medicare star ratings, and successfully integrating the payer's 2012 acquisition of Medicaid provider Amerigroup, which nearly doubled Anthem's Medicaid business.
While he eventually followed in UnitedHealth's footsteps and ordered a retreat from the Affordable Care Act exchanges, Swedish also set up Anthem to grow in the lucrative Medicare Advantage market, most recently striking deals to acquire two Florida-based Advantage plans, HealthSun and America's 1st Choice.
But Anthem's stock returns have lagged behind other for-profit national payers, including Aetna, UnitedHealth and Humana. Its bottom line has slightly decreased from $2.49 billion in 2013 to $2.47 billion in 2016. In contrast, UnitedHealth's profit grew 25% to $7.1 billion in 2016 from $5.7 billion in 2013, thanks to its combo of insurance, OptumRx PBM and consulting.
While Anthem's failure to acquire Cigna Corp. in a $54 billion deal will remain a blotch on Swedish's record, the company is still enormously profitable on its own. And if Swedish put the ball in motion to grow Anthem and its services, then Boudreaux is poised to knock it out of the park.
UnitedHealth and Anthem "were not competing on the same level," said Hema Singh, analyst with S&P Global. But with Boudreaux's experience at UnitedHealthcare—she served as CEO of the health insurance unit from 2011 to 2014 and was with the company beginning in 2008—she'll be able to build out Anthem's PBM much like UnitedHealth built out Optum, though it will take time, Singh said. "They're on the right path here."