WellPoint Health Networks Inc. selects GTE Communications Corporation to manage its national communications network; companies sign five-year contract valued at $135 million.

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. and IRVING, Texas -- WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and GTE Communications Corporation today announced the companies have signed an agreement under which GTE will manage WellPoint's multi-million dollar voice and data communications network and equipment.

Under the five-year, $135 million agreement, GTE will provide on-site help desk services, maintenance, voice and data equipment, and network management and monitoring, as well as handle day-to-day telecommunications department functions. These services will be provided to thousands of end-users at 96 WellPoint sites in 23 states.

"We selected GTE based on its capabilities as an outstanding provider of telecommunications outsourcing services," said Richard Ranelli, senior vice-president and chief information officer of WellPoint. "WellPoint gains by leveraging GTE's technology expertise and its superior infrastructure. These attributes will provide support to our business plan and make new technologies available for the future, while at the same time reducing our expenses."

"Our commitment to WellPoint goes beyond providing wires and switches," said Allen McCook, vice president of strategic accounts for GTE Communications Corporation's West Region. "We're truly a partner in helping them meet the needs of their customers - using our know-how, resources and ready access to new technologies to help assure that WellPoint customers are some of the best served in the health care industry."

WellPoint Health Networks Inc., one of the nation's largest publicly traded managed care companies, serves the health care needs of approximately 6.6 million medical and nearly 22 million specialty members nationally through Blue Cross of California in California, and UNICARE throughout other parts of the country. Based in Woodland Hills, California, WellPoint offers a broad spectrum of quality network health plans provided through its health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations and specialty managed care networks. Specialty products include pharmacy benefit management, dental, vision, mental health, life and disability insurance, flexible spending accounts, COBRA administration, Medicare supplements, and 24-hour integrated, network-based workers' compensation coverage.

With 1997 revenues of more than $23 billion, GTE is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies and a leading provider of integrated telecommunications services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 17 states; nationwide long-distance and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies; as well as video service in selected markets.

Outside the United States, the company serves more than 7 million telecommunications customers. GTE is also a leader in government and defense communications systems and equipment, directories and telecommunications-based information services, and aircraft-passenger telecommunications.