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WellPoint Inc. has announced the departure of two executives who helped explain earlier this year the health insurer's controversial rate increases for individual coverage in California.

The Indianapolis insurer said Thursday evening Chief Strategy and External Affairs Officer Bradley Fluegel and Chief Actuary Cynthia Miller will be leaving the company. Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt will take over responsibility for the actuarial group, and Consumer Business Unit President Brian Sassi will assume responsibility for marketing, strategy and international.

WellPoint runs Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states and is the largest commercial health insurer based on membership.

Earlier this year, the company drew heavy criticism, including rebukes from President Barack Obama and members of his administration, for proposing rate hikes as high as 39 percent for some individual insurance customers in California. WellPoint later withdrew plans for the increases, which averaged 25 percent.

Fluegel, whose duties included overseeing corporate strategy and public affairs, and other WellPoint executives have said its rates were driven by rising medical costs and healthy people dropping coverage during the recession, among other factors.

Miller was among the WellPoint executives who testified before Congress in February about the increases. She said the insurer built a profit margin of less than 2 percent into its California rates.

The insurer said Thursday the management changes will help it "streamline its operations and lower administrative costs by consolidating work for greater efficiency and effectiveness."

WellPoint also said in October it dismissed Executive Vice President Dijuana K. Lewis, who had served as president and CEO of WellPoint's Comprehensive Health Solutions Business Unit, which includes provider relations, and care and disease management, since October 2007.

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