Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Time to Be Grateful

I relaunched my blog this past September so I could share some of my thoughts on topics and issues that impact businesses and individuals in the Commonwealth, in particular health care. And, I thank all of you for joining in that conversation. Please keep your comments and feedback coming!

But now – as we continue through the holiday season – I wanted to share with you what I am most grateful for this year.

I am grateful to all the business, community and civic leaders who have embraced our efforts to help improve access to quality health care and help individuals here live healthier lives. Stay tuned – there is much more to come in 2012!

I am grateful for our team at UnitedHealthcare. Their tireless efforts to help improve the lives of individuals in the region through the work they do and the community efforts they support are an inspiration to me. We created our holiday card as a tribute to our team and the many community organizations they supported in 2011. Click here to see it.

I continue to be grateful for the endless words of wisdom my parents have imparted to me over the years – and their love and support. Those who know me have heard me say over and over, "There's always a way, if you are committed." Well, that's the voice of my father who's influenced me all these years.

And, most of all, I am grateful for the four men in my life – my husband and my three sons and the countless joys they bring me. I am so proud of them each day.

I want to wish you all a very happy holiday and a healthy New Year…

And look forward to continuing our dialogue around growing businesses here in the Commonwealth and building healthier communities in 2012.

Until then, be well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Health Benefits Exchanges: Balancing Competition and Choice

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot more discussion surrounding health benefits exchanges here in the Commonwealth and across the country… and more people asking me about my views on them.

UnitedHealthcare is committed to be an active partner in the reform and modernization of the health care system. I would like to share our initial thoughts on the development of exchanges – ones that seek to maximize choice and competition inside and outside the exchanges.

“In order to provide affordable choices, exchanges must be developed in a way that supports competition among health plans by balancing the need for national uniformity with state flexibility and employer/consumer demands, while promoting responsible consumer behavior. This can be accomplished by:

• Developing fair marketplaces that provide a level playing field for all health plans, such as by applying the same open enrollment period rules both inside and outside the exchange and ensuring that exchange governance policies are not politicized.

• Fostering consumer choice by allowing insurers to offer a variety of plans for consumers both inside and outside the exchange.

• Promoting consumer and health plan participation in exchanges, including allowing employees eligible to enroll in small business health exchanges to choose any health plan offering within a specific level of coverage set by the employer, and maintaining a separate risk pool from the individual market to encourage participation among health plans.

• Avoiding duplication of existing state regulatory functions such as rate review to reduce administrative redundancies and delays in product availability, and to ensure seamless consumer eligibility, verification and enrollment.

• Standardizing health plan certification to promote competition among plans, improved administrative efficiencies and predictable product offering choices for consumers.”

To read more about health care reform, visit the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization --

We look forward to engaging with you all in a robust discussion on exchanges and other reform measures as we look to provide access to high quality, affordable health care both here and around the country for all individuals.

I wish you all a very happy holiday season!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pennsylvania Gains One in America’s Health Rankings, But Shows Little to Cheer

Earlier this week, the United Health Foundation released the 22nd Edition of America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.

Pennsylvania moved up one spot to #26 from last year’s rankings, but this is certainly nothing to celebrate. While we saw an overall decrease in the number of smokers and improvement in high school graduation rates and other indicators, Pennsylvania, like the rest of the country, saw significant increases in the number of residents who have diabetes and/or are obese. But we do not have to continue this downward slide.

I would like to share with you the blog that Reed Tuckson, M.D., United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group, posted earlier this week that not only illustrates the dire predicament we as Americans find ourselves in, but ways in which we can together address our stagnating health. I hope you find it as thought-provoking as I did.

Dr. Tuckson writes:

“Disappointingly, our nation’s health is stagnating. Today’s report finds that troubling increases in obesity, diabetes, and children in poverty are offsetting modest improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations, and cardiovascular deaths. What this means is that the overall health of the nation did not improve at all between 2010 and 2011 – a decline from the 0.5 percent average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010 and the 1.6 percent average annual rate of improvement seen in the 1990s. A compelling example of this stagnation is smoking and obesity: The Rankings found that, for every person who quit smoking in 2011, somebody became obese.

The result is millions more individuals with preventable illnesses, a veritable tsunami of chronic disease washing into an already overburdened health care system. With chronic disease affecting 130 million Americans and accounting for nearly 75 percent of these costs, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to act more urgently and creatively to confront these issues.

When it comes to challenges of this magnitude, it’s important to realize that 'we’re all in this together.' Government leadership is essential, but government cannot do it alone. The private sector, philanthropy and community-based organizations all need to join in a data-driven process to determine priorities and then recruit the broad range of assets necessary to address these priorities.

Individuals clearly play a role too. The subtitle of this report remains A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities. These are not just words but an urgent plea for comprehensive, innovative and sustained engagement. Whether it’s making a personal change like quitting smoking or exercising; supporting community initiatives that create safe and healthy environments in which to live and work; or creating health enhancing policies or programs, the point is that too much is at stake to leave these issues unaddressed. Now is the time!”

To find out more about the 2011 America’s Health Rankings, visit You can also find and follow America’s Health Rankings on Facebook at and Twitter at @AHR_Rankings. Dr. Tuckson encourages us all to exchange ideas, share information and learn from each other as we work to turn the tide on the health challenges facing the nation – and Pennsylvania.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recognizing Women of Distinction

Earlier this week, I was honored to be among 25 women business executives being recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal as “Women of Distinction.”

The Philadelphia Business Journal celebrated its 14th anniversary of recognizing women leaders who are having a positive impact on our businesses, our communities and our families here in the region – and I am humbled to be among the outstanding women who have received this honor. The women I shared the dais with this year are paying it forward, because, as fellow honoree Clara Rivas of WWSI Telemundo Philadelphia said, “We owe it to other women to light the road.”

In lieu of acceptance remarks, Lyn Kremer, publisher of the PBJ, challenged each us to write an 11th Commandment. Each and every response was inspiring, providing us a glimpse of what makes each woman a great leader and a sense of where her passions lie. For example, Patricia Miller of Nobel Learning Communities, Inc. deemed that “Thou shalt provide educational opportunities for all children – the cornerstone of a strong society.”

Improving our communities and ourselves, and educating our young people, were common themes, and each honoree was taking significant steps to address these issues – putting her words to action.

But like Clara, many of these distinguished ladies focused on their responsibility to lend other women a “helping hand” so they also might achieve their own lofty goals in business, the community and the home. Here are a few that stood out to me, and, while they may not be verbatim, I hope I have captured their essence.

Kamil Ali-Jackson of Yaupon Therapeutics Inc., reminded us all to do no harm to women who are trying to balance their lives, while Eunice Heath of The Dow Chemical Co. encouraged us to remove barriers so women can reach their full potential. That means helping those in need as well as accepting help from others, as encouraged by Irene Chang Britt of Campbell Soup Company.

We all cannot be Wonder Woman – and should not strive to be – but we can be the best CEO of our own lives, which means having a great team around you. In talking with many of these very special women, this philosophy is key to their success. While enabling others to reach their goals, they are also confident enough to ask for help in reaching theirs.

I think Lisa Nutter, awarded for her work with Philadelphia Academies, Inc., summed it up best – “Those who say it could not be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” These inspiring women are helping change Philadelphia, the Commonwealth and beyond – so get out of their way.

I leave with you with my 11th Commandment, which partially echoes a UnitedHealthcare mantra and I try to remember it every day:

Don’t sleepwalk through life. Be present. Be here now. As Maya Angelou said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” I'm trying hard not to miss a single one of those moments, like tonight.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wellness Comes to Philly Businesses – With Healthy Results

Well, we all know that an apple a day is no longer the trick. Maybe because we dip that apple in caramel. Maybe because a day has morphed into a week.

Whatever the reason, we know that it’s become more difficult to get healthy and stay healthy, and the cost of keeping the doctor away has reached new heights.

And, if you watch certain reality TV shows, it looks like if you want to be fit and healthy, you need to work out seven hours a day and eat cardboard. So it is no wonder that millions of Americans throw up their hands and quit before they start.

But studies have found that it is the small, incremental changes that have the most long-lasting impact on our health. Employers can play an instrumental role in helping employees live healthier lives, which may also have a positive impact on their bottom line. The Wellness Council of America estimates that for each $1 invested in a wellness program, employers can save as much as $3 in health care and productivity costs.

This is why we teamed up with Philadelphia magazine for its Be Well Philly Challenge, an eight-week corporate wellness competition. The results were outstanding! The four finalists lost a combined total of almost 1,000 pounds! These teams came together at Lucky Strike last Wednesday to crown the 2011 Be Well champion, enjoy healthy food and bowl. Advance Audio Visual Sales took the top prize, garnering almost 1,500 pound and wellness points.

To build an effective wellness program, consider what the Be Well Philly Challenge participants and other area businesses are doing to create sustainable wellness programs:

• Develop a detailed plan that includes short- and long-term objectives.
• Set up a wellness committee and identify wellness champions who will help drive the program’s scope and implementation.
• Review data from past insurance claims, employee surveys, health assessments and biometric screenings to make sure you select wellness programs that combat the most common health challenges affecting employees.
• Offer onsite wellness programs, such as biometric screenings, health fairs and walking clubs.
• Encourage employees to participate in wellness programs by offering incentives like gift cards, lower health insurance premiums, cash bonuses, discounts and contributions to health savings accounts.
• Make sure you communicate often.
• Provide employees with online tools that simplify important tasks like keeping track of health care costs.
• Track results to evaluate both the wellness programs and how individual employees in the programs are doing.

We are committed to helping individuals live healthier and supporting companies that share that goal. While following these tips may help employers and their employees achieve results like our Be Well Philly finalists did, we look forward to partnering with more companies and community organizations to improve the health of our employees, families and friends here and across the country.

Have a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

Learn more about Philadelphia magazine’s Be Well Philly Challenge

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reform Through Cultural Transformation

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of participating in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s inaugural “Health Care Innovation Awards” program. The event not only recognized some of the most innovative thought leaders in the area but hosted one of the most engaging health care panels I have heard in a long time.

When we talk about fixing the health care system, we often hear about innovation and technology driving change, but the panelists discussed a novel concept for the health care industry – the need to change the health care culture.

The main premise – to achieve long-lasting positive change, we need a culture in which ideas, visions and responsibilities are shared across all key stakeholders. When we can do that, we can break down barriers, develop multi-faceted approaches to solving problems and take advantage of opportunities to improve health care in this country.

But, cultural change is slow. It will require hard work and investments on many levels. Will it be worth it? The panel of experts said, “absolutely,” identifying five areas in which health providers, insurers and regulators could come together now in a “culture of collaboration” to improve our health system:

• Establish universal access to electronic health records;
• Improve coordinated care;
• Make hospitals safer;
• Share outcomes data and develop best practices to improve quality of care; and
• Enable nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other medical experts to practice to their fullest training.

I draw on the insights of one of the panelists, Rich Miller, CEO of Virtua and the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2011 Health Care Innovation Awards’ “CEO of the Year,” to illustrate the concept. In the past, hospitals set goals based on occupancy rates – “heads in beds,” as he described it. Today, hospital leaders are discussing the need to keep patients out of those beds. Physicians will need to change their practice patterns, providing greater focus on wellness than sickness. Patients must change how they think and act when accessing the health care system. For example, non-critical care and preventive care services can be performed outside the hospital or doctor’s office – at their local pharmacies, for example.

Insurers will need to move away from their fee-for-service model, which rewards activity without regard to outcome. It will require that insurers become less transaction oriented and engage more as an insurer-activist… embracing sophisticated technology that leads to more and better data that is shared broadly to improve the health of the system and society as a whole.

Our collective goal should be a culture of care in which the five improvements mentioned above play a critical role, where patients receive the most clinically efficacious, cost-effective care in the right setting and at the right time by an appropriate medical professional to ensure the best clinical outcome.

We have learned from cultural changes of the past that results come from actively working together toward common goals – in the case of health care, an economically stable health care system and healthier Americans.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Health Care Innovations Awards and the 2011 winners, go to

Friday, November 4, 2011

Take a Stroll Down Health Care Lane

With snow comes thoughts of the upcoming holidays, and walking down shopping streets and malls looking for the ideal gifts. But for UnitedHealthcare and millions of Americans, thoughts are on annual open enrollment season – and selecting the best health benefits for them and their families. But, according to a 2010 study by UnitedHealthcare, Americans spend more time choosing a car than they do selecting health benefits.

In a recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) survey, approximately 36 percent of all U.S. adults lack the necessary skills to read and understand basic information to manage their health. The study also revealed that 88 percent of all adults are less than proficient when it comes to understanding complex health care topics.

At UnitedHealthcare, we’re working to change that by arming employers and consumers with resources to help them make informed choices about their health plan options. We’ve found that accessibility to such information leads to better decisions and better health, which ultimately promotes affordability.

So we invite you to take a stroll down Health Care Lane.

Health Care Lane is both an online experience and a “brick-and-mortar” exhibit that bring the interactive website to life. Both versions of Health Care Lane are designed to improve consumer health literacy and help employers experience the many different health care programs they can put in place for their workforce.

As individuals stroll through this highly interactive town – either in person or online, they may visit the “Public Library” to learn about various health insurance terms and what UnitedHealthcare is doing about health literacy; the “Pharmacy” to get more information on managing prescriptions, keeping costs low and understanding the differences between brand-names and generics; the “Fitness Center” to find out more about wellness and preventive programs and healthy lifestyles; the “WiFi CafĂ©” to use online health tools and cost calculators; and the “Town Bank” to learn about financial tools and accounts, such as Health Savings Accounts.

While Health Care Lane is an engaging way to learn about health benefits, it is one of hundreds of Internet sites that provide consumers with good basic health and health benefits information. Or, visit a real library or fitness center or doctor’s office to get more information for better health.

As we near the beginning of the holiday season and the end of benefits open enrollment season – and our pending New Year’s resolutions, we encourage a trip down Health Care Lane or other health information destinations to get more educated and more engaged – so you and your family can live healthier lives.

Health Care Lane arrives in Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 8. For more information, visit We look forward to seeing you there. If you cannot join us in person, please take a stroll down Health Care Lane at

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Challenge to Lead Change

Last Friday, I had the honor of spending the morning with Gail Boudreaux, UnitedHealthcare’s CEO, while she was in Philadelphia keynoting The Forum of Executive Women’s 2011 Leadership Breakfast.  Gail asked

the 600 business leaders, both women and men, in attendance to consider taking a more active role in transforming the health care system.

Gail encouraged the group to engage in the health care conversation as leaders, knowing that rising to the challenge involves change – not just thinking or talking about it, but accepting its inevitability, believing in its possibilities, and leading the charge to use it for inspiration.

Gail shared with the audience her own experience of adapting to change, describing UnitedHealthcare’s recent partnership with Sesame Street Workshop.  “Accepting change urges us to think differently.  Did I think a year ago that my business partner would be a Muppet?”  Over the giggles of the audience, Gail added how excited she was that Elmo and the gang have joined forces with UnitedHealthcare to promote healthy eating in a fun and engaging way.  She emphasized that it is partnerships such as this and opportunities to work collaboratively that will help solve the tough problems facing our health care system today. Remaining optimistic and solution-focused are also critical to making a positive difference in the future of our health care system.

I thought Gail struck a chord with her three challenges to the group: 
·         Go beyond your boundaries and embrace collaboration in a transparent way.  Breaking new ground, we have to be open to something uniquely different to take advantage of the expertise inside all of us.
·         Drive change through your organization.  Each person casts their own ”leadership shadow” – and your actions can inspire others.    
·         Take time to personally make your employees aware and engaged in their health care choices.  Do you take time to ensure that your employees are utilizing their health care benefits the way they should?  Do you make your own health and wellness a priority, and do you see yourself as a role model? 

One of the key themes that resonated with me from Gail’s presentation was that there are steps we can all take – both in and out of the office – that will help us be informed and engaged consumers, including understanding the costs of health care and making decisions based on research and data.  In essence, Gail challenged the group to embrace what we tell our customers and employees as our own personal health care model.

I accept the challenge. Will you do the same?

UnitedHealthcare is bringing Health Care Lane to Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 8.  For more information, visit  We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Evolving Role of the Broker

As temperatures begin to cool and the days get shorter, thoughts turn to the holidays and the hope for some time to reenergize before kicking off a new year.  However, at UnitedHealthcare, we are busier than ever helping businesses find high quality, affordable health benefits solutions options for 2012.

But I did take time out of this hectic schedule to pause and spend some time looking beyond January 1, 2012.  Recently, I had the pleasure of joining leading health insurance executives at a panel discussion hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Association of Health Underwriters.  I thank GPAHU president Jerry McGlone and all GPAHU leaders for once again hosting a lively discussion on the issues impacting health care coverage today and in the future, including the evolving role of technology to empower consumers, the increasing focus on evidence-based guidelines, the heightened emphasis on wellness and the post-2014 benefits plans mix.

We also spent some time talking about health care exchanges and the ever-changing role of the broker.  I have a special place in my heart for health insurance brokers since I spent about half my career working as a broker.  A lot is being made about the imminent demise of the broker, but as Mark Twain once said “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Brokers are needed more now than ever before… and that will only increase as health care reform continues to roll out throughout the states. Brokers already have a “trusted adviser” status with many of their client businesses yet must evolve even further. 

Employers will still play an integral role in either offering plans themselves or helping employees navigate as-yet developed health care exchanges.  Businesses, especially smaller ones, will not have the time or resources to wade through the myriad of plan options, reform regulations and business incentives that will continue to roll out across the states and/or through federal health care reform… and this will be to their detriment.

Brokers can help employers take advantage of certain changes but must shift away from low-value tasks to make time for ones of greater importance to clients, such as helping create health and wellness solutions to address unique health and affordability needs.  For example, our brokers have played an important role in helping us develop new plan designs and wellness programs and we stand ready to partner with them as we continue to meet the benefits needs of businesses.

And, brokers will become the “consumer educators.”  Consumers who traditionally have been given one benefit plan – or maybe two options – will now have many choices especially when exchanges roll out in 2014 – and many are ill-prepared to make the best choice for themselves and their families.  Who better to help them make those decisions than someone who has a unique vantage point on health benefit offerings?   Enlightened brokers may become the best stewards to help clients and their employees navigate the ever-more turbulent health care market.

We look forward to enhancing our relationships with brokers and playing a vital part in their transformation – as we all hopefully share a goal to help individuals live healthier lives.

UnitedHealthcare is bringing Health Care Lane to Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 8.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Who Needs It? WE DO!

One year ago: 136 former cheerleaders, 1 pop singer and 2 passionate organizations launched a campaign to put the AWARENESS back into Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Before I elaborate, I must first thank Sue Schick for this wonderful opportunity. Sue has been on the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate Board of Directors for two years... UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania, an avid supporter for longer. It is no exaggeration when I say that in that short time, Sue and UnitedHealthcare have helped bring revolutionary approaches to our breast cancer movement.

From simply sharing a blogging forum, to putting us on the worldwide stage, UnitedHealthcare invests incredible passion to create opportunities that empower our fight against breast cancer. They are always thinking of ways to do things bigger and better. This type of ambition drives our victories, for we can evolve, but breast cancer cannot… it has no new strategies to throw at us.

A look at National Breast Cancer Month (NBCAM) demonstrates this perfectly. Over the past several years the concept of this month has become harder for people to wrap their heads around. This is both good and not-so-good.

The positive: unlike 15 years ago, entire communities have grown so aware of breast cancer issues, and so vigilant in practicing early detection, they don't feel a need for a one-month observance to motivate action in the cause. The negative: huge populations still exist for whom this is not true; it is critical the communities that are "well aware" continue to talk about the disease and bring the rest into the awareness that saves lives.

Last summer, the Affiliate was feeling the negative impact of this lax attitude toward awareness. As you know, you can't go anywhere in October without being bombarded with pink. Every newscast contains breast cancer messages. Every church, school and organization holds a fundraiser. This inundation actually made people increasingly unresponsive to our calls to action. We asked ourselves: How do we engage our communities without giving them more of what they already tell us they have too much of?

Our answer was to do something we never did before – create a video. “Team Ra-Ras Kicks Breast Cancer” was launched on Youtube on October 4, 2010. As Exclusive Video Sponsor, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania committed to donate 10 cents to Komen Philadelphia Affiliate each time the performance was viewed on YouTube up to a total of $100,000, or 1 million views…a benchmark obtained in under four weeks! UnitedHealthcare immediately presented us with a $100,000 check.

The company then presented us a challenge. It agreed to contribute an additional $50,000 when views of the “Team Ra-Ras” video reach 5 million, plus another $50,000 when it reaches 8 million views, for a possible $200,000 total contribution. So click on and help us reach our goals.

Thanks in large part to UnitedHealthcare's ingenuity and generosity, the video exceeded our expectations, helping us rise above the disenchantment and mobilizing people worldwide to embrace breast cancer awareness. Reactions continue to demonstrate people of every generation long for connection and the knowledge they are not alone in a world where breast cancer takes 1,252 lives every day.

When asked to explain the real power of the video, I reference a Blog-Talk discussing about it. A caller from China saw the video and was confused as we talked about survivors living normal lives. In her understanding, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer had only two choices: cut off your breasts and live in shame, or die. This woman lived in such horrible fear, and there are millions like her. In took just four minutes to change her life… to make her AWARE of the reality… to instill HOPE that her children's world will not be one darkened by the shadow of breast cancer.

THIS is why we celebrate NBCAM every October… and I hope you continue to celebrate it with Komen, UnitedHealthcare and your loved ones until breast cancer is eradicated from our world. You can start right now by viewing – and sharing – Team Ra-Ras Kicks Breast Cancer.

Elaine Grobman, Executive Director
The Philadelphia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paying Tribute to Nurses Who Make a Difference Every Day

My job as CEO of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of Pennsylvania has provided me the opportunity to meet so many special individuals – all striving to make a difference in the lives of the people they touch. The DAISY Award recognizes such people – nurses who provide exceptional levels of care and compassion.

This past Friday, I was pleased to represent UnitedHealthcare at The DAISY Award ceremony at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – or CHOP – and recognize nurses who insist that “they are just doing what they are trained to do” but truly go above and beyond the call of duty. I thank CHOP’s Steven Altschuler, M.D., CEO, and Kathy Gorman, R.N., chief nursing officer, for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful event.

The Barnes family established The DAISY Foundation in 2000 in memory of their son J. Patrick Barnes to create a lasting legacy to Patrick and to spotlight the extraordinary care that many of the more than three million nurses across the country provide to their patients and their families every day. Each month, nurses are selected by their nursing administration, peers and patients to receive “The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.” As of March 2011, more than 8,000 nurses at more than 800 hospitals have been recognized with this award. I’m proud to say that UnitedHealthcare provides financial support to The DAISY Foundation and that CHOP was our 94th DAISY hospital and 22nd children’s hospital to receive these grants.

Like many families, I have an extraordinary nurse story. Mine began when my first son, George, was born and we learned he would need six surgeries over eight years. After his first surgery, at age six, recovery was tough – but Nurse Gail was with us every step of the way, as health care provider, patient advocate, emotional rock, and, most importantly, friend. When George returned six months later for his second surgery, he was very scared – and as a young mother, I didn’t know what to do or say to comfort him. Then, out of nowhere, Nurse Gail appeared. She knew we would be there and had to check in on “her George.” When he saw her, he knew – and I knew – everything would be all right. My son is 23 now and perfectly healthy.

Throughout the years, we’ve reflected from time to time on the health care professionals who supported George. But almost every day, I remember Nurse Gail and the difference she made in George’s life.

I thank the Barnes family for turning their heartbreak into a “call to action,” encouraging those touched by nurses and their compassionate care to recognize these special caregivers. Bonnie and Mark, Patrick’s parents, have told hundreds of nurses over the past decade, “You may think what you do every day is routine, but please do not take what you do for granted. Appreciate the impact you have on so many people. Your patients and families – and everyone in their lives – surely do.”

While The DAISY Award recognizes nurses who work in a medical setting, I want to recognize the more than 7,000 nurses at UnitedHealth Group who help put our mission into action by improving the way health care works for people. The DAISY ceremonies spotlight nurses as part of the foundation to help people stay well, get well or live with illness.

To all DAISY Award winners – to my Nurse Gail – and all nurses for their extraordinary commitment to quality care and compassionate service – a heartfelt thank you.

Have you thanked a nurse today? To learn how, visit

Friday, September 30, 2011

Embracing Innovation in Health Care…We’re All Turning Over a New Leaf

On Tuesday, UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania was proud to join the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in presenting "Embracing Innovation in Health Care to Help Your Business Grow Healthy." The meeting’s keynote presenter -- our own Jeff Alter -- offered attendees a unique perspective combining his role as national CEO for UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual and one of the company’s first executives “on the ground” when we entered the market more than eight years ago.

Jeff and the other panelists were there to talk about innovation but as I walked back from The Downtown Club contemplating the coming of fall, I realized that the overriding message each was imparting was about change – more specifically, that the constant change taking place in health care today is a good thing, provided we embrace it. It’s a great time to be in the health care business because we are in a position to affect positive, meaningful change if we collectively focus on simplifying the health care system for consumers, focusing on high quality, cost-effective evidence-based care and enabling Americans to live healthier lives.

This week’s program reinforced for me some key principles about change:

1) Thriving in a constantly changing environment requires embracing innovation;
2) Attitude plays an integral role in innovation; and
3) A positive can-do attitude needs to be shared by everyone.

Happily, the health care industry already has created a strong foundation on all three. Technology and other innovations like DocGPS and other consumer health apps, eSync, Premium Designation and “episode of care” treatment cost estimators demonstrate that innovation practically applied can help support consumers and businesses as they make more informed decision about health care. As for attitude, from physicians and hospital CEOs, to brokers, consultants and members, we share one goal – to improve the health of our communities – and are building partnerships to make that happen.

How can businesses leverage all this? What should you be doing to now to prepare for changes that will come as health care reform continues to roll out?

• Embrace consumerism. The next phase of innovation in health care truly centers around the consumer so everyone along the health care continuum must share information, simplify processes, and provide affordable health care coverage options so consumers can access health services in a more thoughtful way as each works to live a healthier life.

• Advance connectivity. Health insurers, physicians and hospitals, brokers and health educators have lots of information on health care costs, quality care, wellness initiatives and other programs that can make businesses and consumers smarter purchasers of health care – and hopefully more healthy. Innovative solutions utilizing innovative technology must be created so that access to knowledge is tailored to an individual’s needs so it becomes part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

In wrapping, Jeff challenged businesses to raise their collective voices to ensure that the needs of our economic drivers are being heard. Since the health care reform debate started in earnest in 2009, the business community has been relatively quiet. But it will be in the workplace – armed with tools from insurers, physicians, brokers and others in health care – where innovative solutions and ongoing education will have the greatest impact in driving down health care costs, enabling individuals to live healthier lives and addressing the long-term economic health and prosperity of businesses in the commonwealth and across the country.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Don't Do It Alone - And That's OK

Last week, while millions flocked to movie theaters to see Hollywood’s interpretation of a career woman trying to balance the often-times competing demands of work and family in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” I was addressing the same topic in a more reality-based setting at a meeting of professional women in downtown Philadelphia. While we were all at different stages in our personal and professionals lives, we were seeking answers to the same questions. “How do I make my life what I want it to be?” “How do I ‘stay present’ in a frantic world?” “How do I set boundaries and priorities – and stick to them?”

I want to thank the Philadelphia Business Journal and its publisher Lyn Kremer, for hosting this wonderful event – and for the selection of venue. It seemed so appropriate to be talking about this topic at this place given that the present – and first female – president of the Union League Club, Joan Carter, was also a speaker.

As a full-time working mother of three sons, I ask myself the same questions our speakers and attendees were, and none of us claimed to have all the answers. But I do know this. Trying to balance your work and personal lives is a dynamic process requiring life-long adjustment, and you can’t do it alone.

My “aha” moment happened in a parking lot. Needing to work late, as I transferred my first two boys from my car to my husband’s, I received a wonderful chocolate pudding-mixed-with-goldfish crackers kiss from my six-year old. I asked myself “What am I doing?”

As sweet (literally and figuratively) as that kiss was, I thought, this craziness is not how it is supposed to be. After that, my husband and I decided that he would be a stay-at-home dad – and he is great! And, as a result, I was able to build my consulting work, and we were able to have our third child.

It was that experience, along with other changes I’ve implemented and mistakes I’ve made that have helped me keep work from overturning the “life boat." I'd like to share with you some key elements that have made my life-career balance possible.

Be intentional. Frequently ask yourself – “am I going in the right direction to make my life the way I want it to be?” If not, changes are in order.

Be honest. I was so busy trying to be Wonder Woman that I wasn’t being true to myself or anyone else. Remember, you don’t have all the answers and you can’t do it all – and that’s okay. Create a set of realistic priorities against which you compare all opportunities. At UnitedHealthcare, we call this our “Blue Chip Test” – whatever we have planned must stand up against this, or we don’t do it.

Be present. Take a few minutes before the end of each work day to quiet your mind, and just focus on breathing, counting backwards from 10. Then, when it’s time to go home, you’ll truly be present for your family. As part of our corporate culture at UnitedHealthcare, we ask our employees to be “Be Here Now,” requiring that individuals shut off cell phones, pagers, laptops and iPads to be mentally, as well as physically, present at meetings. And we encourage employees to apply such boundaries in their personal lives too.

It's hard to prescribe what "balance" is to each person. The solutions that worked for me may not be right for someone who gets her greatest joy and satisfaction from working 24/7. The most important thing is to find fulfilling work where flexibility is welcome. Don't be afraid to talk to your manager, your spouse and your children about your needs, and keep the conversation going about expectations of everyone involved in your life.

My best advice is to make whatever you define as balance work for you. What have you done to find your balance?

            - Kenneth Frieson, Photographic & Media Arts

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ride 2 Recovery

This past Sunday, we remembered those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and paid tribute to the many who helped in the days, months and years following that tragic day to reflect and rebuild.

In the days following 9/11, we turned to one another – family, friends, co-workers and even strangers – seeking comfort and drawing strength – to make some sense of this tragedy and begin recovering and rebuilding. We also were reminded about the many rights and privileges we so often take for granted.

Over the last decade, thousands of our servicemen and women have fought to protect and defend these freedoms from those who wish to take them away. Often they have returned home with devastating physical and emotional injuries. As part of the healing process, many of them have turned to cycling through an organization called Ride 2 Recovery.

Riding specially modified bikes, whether hand cycles, recumbents or tandems has proven to be a catalyst in healing physical and emotional injuries. I am proud to say that UnitedHealthcare is helping support their rehabilitation. For the second consecutive year, it is our great honor to be the presenting sponsor of Ride 2 Recovery events, most recently the 9/11 Challenge.

On Sunday morning under a hazy sky, more than 350 injured veterans and their families, friends and supporters, including 9/11 survivors and first responders, pushed off from Liberty State Park for a 540-mile, eight-day journey. The cyclists rode into Philadelphia on Monday afternoon and my team and I were so honored to join these brave men and women for an evening dinner cruise. I felt humbled talking to them and hearing their stories. Many told me that they were grateful for the support we provided to the Ride 2 Recovery but it is we who are most thankful.

The riders left Tuesday morning from the steps of the Art Museum – many of them stopping for a quick photo in front of the Rocky statue – before heading off to Lancaster. Today – Friday, September 16 – the riders will stop for a ceremony at the United Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., and on Sunday, September 18, arrive at the final destination -- the Pentagon. While they will celebrate having completed this ride, they also will remember their fallen comrades and reflect on the journey will all have taken over the last decade.

Throughout the ride, these cyclists face uphill battles, but through camaraderie and spirit, they will push through to the end. This shared determination reminds us that we gather strength from each other, and that connection to community is good for the mind, body and soul.

To all first responders and those in the military who continue to demonstrate bravery and self-sacrifice every day to keep America safe – a profound thanks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Welcome Back

Don't you think the first day of school is really like the first day of the year? A sharp Number Two pencil. New school shoes. A spring in your step. A renewed commitment to work hard and do well following a summer of rest and relaxation.

I feel the same way about business post-Labor Day... except we at UnitedHealthcare of Pennsylvania did not take a break this summer.

While you haven’t heard from me a lot over the last several months, we’ve been busy here at UnitedHealthcare. We've updated our product portfolio to include a broader array of high-quality, affordable health benefits options, enhanced our wellness programs, and expanded our network of hospitals, and physicians and other health care providers.

As with your lives, fall promises to be just as busy.

We’re excited to welcome our corporate executives to Philadelphia this fall to speak at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in September and the Forum of Executive Women in October. We will be recognizing leaders throughout our own region through events like the Philadelphia Business Journal's “Innovation in Healthcare" awards and Philadelphia Magazine's "Healthiest Workplace” competition. And, stay tuned for the return of "Healthcare Lane," our mega healthcare expo, which is coming to Center City Philadelphia in November.

Finally, be on the look-out for UnitedHealthcare’s "Grow Healthy" advertising campaign launching on billboards, radio and buses near you... just in time for back-to-school.

I look forward to reconnecting with all of you and will be here every Thursday, sharing insights into what is going on here at UnitedHealthcare across the Commonwealth and what we are thinking about for the future.

Welcome back and have a great fall!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Timing: Take 10 Healthy Steps to Resolution Success

Whether it’s weight loss, exercise or quitting smoking, it’s easy to discard New Year’s resolutions as quickly as the New Year’s Eve party favors. This year, however, you can set yourself up for success with these simple suggestions:
  • Consider the spirit in which your resolutions are made. If you make a resolution on a whim, you're not likely to remember it after the clock strikes midnight.
  • Choose carefully. Make a potential list of resolutions. Choose one or two that you feel are most important. Balance a difficult resolution with one that will be easier to keep.
  • Take baby steps. Small changes over time can add up to big results. To exercise more, simply start by stretching during TV commercials. To eat healthier, begin by eating a piece of fruit every day after work. To clear clutter, set aside 15 minutes a day to organize your files.
  • Get it on paper. Jot down the steps you'll take to reach your resolution and include a timeline.
  • Enlist a friend. Knowing that you’re accountable to someone other than yourself for that morning walk can help keep you on track.
  • Complete the resolution in your mind’s eye. Visualize your resolution coming to life. See the positive impact it will have.
  • Be patient. Major changes take time, energy and dedication. These changes won’t happen overnight.
  • Reward yourself for the resolutions you’ve kept. Treat yourself to something special, such as fresh flowers, a good book or a massage.
  • Look for ways to keep your resolutions fresh. If your resolution is to eat healthier, don't bring the same boring salad for lunch every day. Try a new dish once a week to spice up your diet.
  • Focus on yourself. The changes are yours to make, and the rewards are yours to enjoy!
We wish you all a very happy and healthy 2011!