Instead of making up new words, why doesn’t Anthem create real value for both providers and customers?
It’s not uncommon for brands to reinvent themselves by changing their name, image, or market position. Anthem, ranked no. 23 on the Fortune 500 list for 2021, is really hoping its recent plan to change its name to Elevance Health – a combination of “elevate” and “advance” – will enhance its brand identity to signify the massive company as more than just a health insurance payor. We’ve seen similar changes from other payors working hard to revitalize their market position and reputation, like Cigna introducing Evernorth, which is the umbrella company for its non-benefits business, focusing more on health services. These changes are seemingly copycat to UnitedHealth’s Optum “payvider” model, the model for the industry and the nuisance of providers everywhere.
Anthem says this move to Elevance Health is a better fit for their business and what it offers to employers, governments, consumers. Although Anthem’s recent acquisitions haven’t put it on the same level as other payors who own healthcare providers (cough, Optum,) its still managing Beacon Health Options for behavioral care, myNexus for home-based health, and a massive and highly profitable PBM, IngenioRx. Yet this latest news begs the question: is Anthem’s rebrand really about focusing more on their business or changing its damaged image?
Anthem needs more than a name change to fix its reputation. Let’s not forget that Anthem made huge gains in revenue, doubling its $550M Q4 profits to $1.1B in Q4 of 2021, as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole, on the back of delayed patient care. Even with all this extra cash, Anthem still found a way to get behind on claims payments. They were also found negligent over “white-bagging” policies where providers must have medications shipped directly to the site of care where the drug will be administered, preventing specialty pharmacies in hospitals or clinics from adjusting dosages, storing drugs appropriately, or managing necessary inventory correctly. This behavior doesn’t even cover the amount of network disputes Anthem has had with health systems in recent years. For example, it took a court order to extend Anthem’s agreement with Wellstar in Atlanta. Additionally, even though Anthem owns Beacon, they still underpay mental health providers.
All of this under the leadership of a CEO who comes from – you guessed it – United.
This type of behavior, which wreaks havoc on the American healthcare system, isn’t just going to magically disappear with the emergence of Elevance Health as long as the same profit-driven, market share claiming leadership is still in power. Promoting and pushing this brand effort has thus far been successful to take the focus off what Anthem is actually doing in the markets it serves. In the official statement, Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux says, “Improving health means more than just treating what ails us. We must address whole health and the physical, behavioral, and social drivers that impact it.” We’ve heard this same message from all the other national payors before, to little effect, when it comes to partnering with their provider counterparts who can deliver this impact.
So, what does this mean for you and your health system or provider group if you partner or are looking to partner with Anthem? Be prepared for this rebrand to touch every aspect of your organization — from how patient advocates answer the phone, to how claims are submitted, to the vendors or providers you use for patient referrals, and even contract negotiations with the insurer. While Anthem is changing its entire brand to fit its hopeful new image, stay vigilant in making sure it doesn’t create a distraction for you and your teams.
The word Elevance means nothing, yet we know the market power Anthem wields. Providers must be prepared to counter the claims Elevance/Anthem makes about the value of its services, the power of its network, and the “savings” it generates for employers and consumers. Providers must come prepared with the truth.