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