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Ex-PacifiCare CEO Named President of Health Net Unit

April 11, 2002|Ronald D. White

Former PacifiCare Chief Executive Christopher Wing was named president of Health Net of California on Wednesday.

Wing, 44, was president and CEO of Santa Ana-based PacifiCare of California, another major health insurer, until March when he resigned to pursue other interests. He was replaced by James A. Frey, PacifiCare's senior vice president of branding and strategic initiatives.

The two companies are on very different tracks. Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. saw its profit for the fourth quarter of 2001 increase 21% as it cut costs and debt and added enrollment. For the same period, PacifiCare lost $26.4 million, contrasted with net income of $12million the previous year.

"PacifiCare is still in its turnaround. Health Net has been through theirs and is growing," said Wing, who added that the major challenges in his job are to continue building enrollment and rolling out new product.

Wing said California's health plans are underfunded and face broad challenges in the near future, including demands on hospitals that threaten to drive premium increases higher than current double-digit rates.

Wing cited minimum staffing requirements for nurses despite a major nursing shortage, a loss of Medicare funding, high energy costs and state-mandated seismic retrofits as some of the "major strains" on the state's hospitals.

"They will have to pass those costs on to private payers, and we'll have to raise premiums or allow hospitals to close their doors," said Wing. "This is a huge issue for California."

Health Net shares rose 7 cents to $27 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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