Swedish resigns as Trinity Health head to lead WellPoint

March 1, 2013

Joseph Swedish, 61, has resigned as president and chief executive of Trinity Health to become chief executive of WellPoint, one of the country's largest health insurers. He will begin his new role on March 25.

Trinity Health has named Larry Warren interim chief executive. Warren is a Trinity Health board member and a former chief executive of Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Swedish had headed Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health since December 2004.

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, CHA president and chief executive officer, said Swedish helped to strengthen and expand Trinity Health's role in Catholic health care. Under Swedish's leadership, the system acquired Loyola University Health System of Maywood, Ill., in 2011; it affiliated with the University of Michigan Health System and announced consolidation discussions with Newtown Square, Pa.-based Catholic Health East last year.

Plans had called for Swedish to serve as president and chief executive of the consolidated company and for CHE's head, Judith Persichilli, to serve as executive vice president. In the wake of Swedish's resignation announcement Feb. 12, CHE executives issued statements affirming their commitment to the consolidation with Trinity Health.

During his tenure, Trinity Health's revenues increased to $8.9 billion, from $5.7 billion; its total assets increased to $11.7 billion, from $7.5 billion; and its community benefit outlays increased to $615 million, from $265 million.

Under Swedish, Trinity Health also had been recognized by the Diversity Best Practices membership organization for its success in promoting diversity in hiring and promotion, and for supporting minority-owned suppliers and contractors. Thomson Reuters recognized Trinity Health for improving health care quality and patient safety.

Swedish has served on CHA's Board of Trustees since 2006 and is the 2012-2013 board chairman. Sr. Carol said Swedish has made a significant commitment to the CHA board during his tenure and brought a "wonderful perspective" to the board's discussions.

Swedish chaired the CHA board's advocacy and public policy committee from 2009 to 2010, in the lead-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Swedish told Catholic Health World that he was honored to have been selected as CHA chair and to provide guidance and influence regarding its advocacy agenda.

Swedish said he sees a vital, ongoing role for Catholic health care under health care reform. The ministry, he said, is "being called upon like never before, and in a sense to be the conscience of health care providers in terms of how best to minister to people in need."

Swedish said he was attracted to the WellPoint position in part because he believes that, as a large insurer, the company will be in strong position to effect change in the health care delivery system and the way care is administered, especially as insurance expansion moves forward under the Affordable Care Act. New models of care being developed have the potential to make a "huge difference in how we serve people, and particularly those that have been uninsured and had limited access" to health care, he said.

"Insurers are front and center in terms of developing new models of care delivery that allow people to come into the health care delivery system by way of access that never existed before," he said, adding, "I feel I can make a difference, especially given my engagement in Catholic health care."

Prior to joining Trinity Health, which now has 47 hospitals, Swedish was president and chief executive of Colorado's Centura Health, which now is a 14-hospital joint venture involving Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives. Previously, he headed regional divisions of the for-profit hospital company HCA.

Indianapolis-based WellPoint has more than 36 million members in its affiliated health insurance plans and nearly 67 million in the plans of its subsidiaries. The insurance provider is licensed to operate in all 50 states through its subsidiaries. In 14 states, it is a licensee of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company's 2012 net income was about $2.7 billion.


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.