The following is from the Nov. 19, 2007, edition of The Wall Street Journal. Angela Braly, a 1985 graduate of SMU's Dedman School of Law and one of the most powerful women in corporate America, is the focus of this feature article.
THE JOURNAL REPORT: WOMEN TO WATCH
By VANESSA FUHRMANS
Five months into her job as WellPoint Inc.'s chief executive, Angela Braly was on a three-week tour rallying the troops at the health-insurance behemoth's operations across 14 states.
On the agenda that morning: giving a pep talk to managers at the company's Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in New York. Along with other insurers, Empire had recently come under fire from the state's attorney general over whether its planned doctor-rating programs simply tried to steer members to less-expensive physicians.
Ms. Braly told the assembled managers that, despite the flak the company had been getting, measuring physicians would help guide consumers, just as other WellPoint initiatives had, like selling less-expensive plans to the uninsured and providing counseling for people who need complex and costly specialty drugs. Several weeks later, as if to underline Ms. Braly's point, her company reached an agreement with the New York attorney general on criteria that Empire will use in measuring and disclosing physicians' performance.
"Part of the reason we're a lightning rod is that we have to be the disciplinarians around health-care costs," Ms. Braly said in a recent interview. "But we have to remind our [employees] how they're making a difference in people's lives. We're in a very personal business."
The 46-year-old Ms. Braly sees rousing WellPoint's 42,000 employees with her can-do pluck as no small part of her job. As the health-insurance giant's new CEO, she has become arguably the most powerful woman in corporate America this year. With $60 billion in annual sales and nearly 35 million members in its Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country, WellPoint is the country's largest health insurer.
Ms. Braly's position also makes her one of the most powerful voices in the ongoing health-care debate. As the number of America's uninsured climbs toward 50 million and the momentum for health reform intensifies, Ms. Braly will play a big role in shaping the debate. Her most critical task will be protecting her company's interests -- and profits -- in the face of growing pressure for a larger government role in health care, and showing how WellPoint is making a difference in health care for the better.
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