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Ex-Kaiser exec to head Blue Cross

January 10, 2008|Lisa Girion | Times Staff Writer

WellPoint Inc. has named a former Kaiser Permanente executive to head Blue Cross of California, the state's largest for-profit health plan, the company said Wednesday.

Leslie Margolin, 52, named Blue Cross' president and general manager, also will assume the post of president of sister company BC Life & Health on Feb. 11. The two units of Indianapolis-based WellPoint serve more than 8 million Californians.

Margolin, who will be based in Woodland Hills, will oversee health plan underwriting and sales, as well as client and broker relations for group health coverage, WellPoint said. She also will be responsible for development of Blue Cross' long-term strategic direction and for collaboration with local and state officials.

That could be a tall order. Relations with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office have been frosty since WellPoint distinguished itself as the only major insurer to oppose his efforts to expand health coverage.

The company's relations with doctors also may need tending. Many threatened to quit Blue Cross last year after the health plan introduced a schedule that would have cut payments for about half the services and procedures provided by the physicians who serve its members. In some cases, doctors said, the fees were less than their costs. Blue Cross has renegotiated the fees with some doctors.

Blue Cross also has been criticized for its rescission practices. The state Department of Managed Health Care said last year that it would seek a $1-million fine after it found alleged violations in the way Blue Cross canceled individuals' policies after they submitted medical claims.

Until about a year ago, Margolin served as Oakland-based Kaiser's senior vice president for health plan and hospital operations, as well as the management representative of its Labor Management Partnership.

"Leslie Margolin, an extremely respected industry leader in California, will work diligently to improve health, manage costs, introduce innovative products, and deliver world-class, distinctive service to our customers and members throughout the state," WellPoint Chief Executive Angela Braly said in a statement.

Margolin replaces Brian A. Sassi, 47, who was promoted to chief executive of WellPoint's consumer business unit. He will remain in Thousand Oaks.

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lisa.girion@latimes.com

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