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.