Friday, June 22, 2012

Hello South Philly, Hello Better Health

It’s no secret that the world of health insurance is changing…fast! The benefits market for individuals who purchase their own insurance is expected to double over the next decade; Baby Boomers will be expanding the seniors benefits market at the rate of 10,000 people per day and the Medicaid market is expected to grow more than 50 percent. So it should come as no surprise that health insurers across the country are taking steps to simplify the health care experience, and give consumers and communities direct access.

Tomorrow is an exciting day for us at UnitedHealthcare and our neighbors in the Philadelphia community. We’re thrilled to be celebrating the recent opening of our multicultural center in South Philadelphia. While I’m personally looking forward to the Zumba lesson, our “Hello South Philly” celebration will also feature a  block party with performances by the Casa Monarca Mexican Children’s group, a South East Asian Hip Hop dance group and Rapping for Prevention. Community members will be able to get health and dental screenings, tour our facility and more.

But when the celebration ends, the real work begins. The community center acts a “storefront,” or information and education hub for local residents. Through partnerships with local community organizations like the Oral Health Impact Project, Penn Asian Senior Service and South East Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, it will also provide easier access to community resources to help residents better navigate the complex health system and provide valuable information they can use, in consultation with their personal physician, to manage medical decisions. 

UnitedHealthcare is opening centers like this to connect with customers in a more in-depth, personal way, no matter what their health care needs. So whether you’re currently without health insurance and need to better understand your options for coverage, a recently retired couple that needs to enroll in Medicare, or a small business owner looking for information on UnitedHealthcare, the community center offers the chance to meet face-to-face with a UnitedHealthcare representative to get the information or health insurance coverage that’s right for you.

Considering the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, whether people are healthy or not is greatly determined by their circumstances and environment, being able to directly engage with consumers and have a positive impact on their overall health and wellness is our goal.

Improving health conditions through collaboration is often the best way to achieve better health outcomes. So, I’m thrilled that, as part of our “Hello South Philly” celebration, we were able to partner with so many local businesses and nonprofit organizations that share our commitment to improving the lives of those around us. These partners are helping us fulfill our mission to simplify the health care experience, while meeting consumer health and wellness needs and creating trusted relationships with care givers and the larger healthcare community.  Hello South Philly!

For more information on UnitedHealthcare's Asian community initiatives, go to

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grab the Popcorn (Herb Seasoning, No Butter!): Employee Wellness Coming Soon to Every Office Near You!

In April, the Pittsburgh Business Times selected UnitedHealthcare as one of their 2012 Healthiest Employers in Western Pennsylvania. This designation was further defined last Thursday when we placed second among finalists at the Business Times Awards luncheon.

It’s a recognition we hope never to win again.

What? Sue, have you lost it?!

Okay, let’s back up and I’ll clarify. Of course, UnitedHealthcare is extremely honored to be recognized by the Business Times for the health and wellness achievements of our company and employees. We are thrilled our ‘Your Rewards for Health’ employee initiative is delivering amazing results and changing lives for the better. And, personally, I couldn’t be more proud of the 72 percent of employees enrolled in the program who are meeting or exceeding goals on their personalized health scorecards. Yes, UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to getting 100 percent of our employees in the program. And if doing so earns us future recognition, we will accept it with the sincerest gratitude and pride.

However, the"prize" on which UnitedHealthcare truly focuses is a global corporate culture in which healthy practices in the workplace are as natural as emailing. That is, through the innovations, relationships and solutions we offer today’s employers, our goal is to help see to it that workplace wellness is commonplace -- that no employer is the healthiest, because EVERY employer is committed to being equally healthy.

If you’re thinking "not in my lifetime," think again. Such a culture is almost here according to a recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, which estimates that seven in 10 American employers offer wellness initiatives that are directly attributable to improving employee health and reducing health care costs.* The survey also found that workplace wellness knows no boundaries. No business is too big or too small to take the steps toward a healthier workplace. No employee is too busy, financially strapped or willpower-less to benefit, because, in general, we’re not talking major overhauls. We’re talking about small steps; about using the built-in support system of your colleagues.

To illustrate my point, I offer a few examples that work for UnitedHealthcare… from our largest to smallest locations:
  • Annual “Biggest Loser” contests – measuring progress in various biometric areas
  • Popcorn Fridays
  • Weekly ”Walk the Stairs in Pairs” days
  • Watchful Wednesdays – employees keep each others’ appetites in check
  • Wellness-friendly cafeteria options and pointers on how to make better choices
  • Financial incentives in exchange for meeting specified health goals

For a longer list of workplace wellness programs that work, check out some of the stories from the PhiladelphiaBusiness Journal’s 2012 list of Healthiest Employers

Many of these wellness strategies nurture stronger teamwork and higher successes in health goals for a more productive workplace, and a healthier bottom line. So, you see, small additions or changes to a company’s environment can deliver big results, not just for the wellbeing of the business, but for employees, their families and, ultimately, the communities in which we all work and live.

UHC employees in western PA office enjoy a brisk walk during lunch time

Friday, June 8, 2012

Peace of Mind During Summer Travel? There’s an App for That!

Remember when people bought cell phones for peace of mind, “just in case?” In case the car breaks down. In case I get lost. In case I lock myself out of the house. It wasn’t that long ago. That’s why I first carried a mobile phone; it’s why we got cell phones for our children. But today? “Mobile” gave way to “Smart” – and “just in case” became a way of life.  Now, we don’t dare leave the house, let alone head out on vacation, without our smartphones!... I certainly wouldn’t.    

For most people, apps are a major resource for organization, communication and entertainment.  In addition, there is another huge value of mobile apps: keeping up with our own health and well-being. Recent research shows nearly 80 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in mobile health solutions, and 40 percent of physicians believe that mobile health technologies can reduce office visits. This is why many health insurers are offering apps that allow people to access their health care information, monitor existing health issues, and even stay focused on fitness goals.

Of course, we all hope for an incident-free vacation. But, we all know, kids get sick, Aunt Judy reacts to a bee sting or Dad sometimes gets a little too daring on the surf board. Mobile health apps make it easier to access your personal health information, and, if necessary:

  • Locate nearby physicians, hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers using the smartphone’s GPS function.
  • Get immediate access to a registered nurse.
  • Download your insurance ID card to your smartphone and email or fax it directly to a physician office or hospital.
  • Request a callback on specific questions about claims and benefits.
  • View your account balances for available health reimbursement, flexible spending and health savings accounts to pay for medical care.

Other popular health apps can help people count calories and track exercise activity - okay, maybe not important if you want to disconnect on vacation.

At UnitedHealthcare, we fully embrace app technology, offering a variety of mobile apps designed to put consumers in charge of when and how they manage their health. And, we’re seeing the impact this can have on engaging people in healthy behaviors in ways that are as convenient as they are fun, and as educational as they are effective.  So, as you plan your summer travels, whether you plan to kick back or kick it into high gear, remember to pack your peace of mind, by ensuring you have your health and medical information wherever you go.

For more information on UnitedHealthcare’s app technology visit

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Riding the Path to Wellness

A lot of people were “geared” up for this Sunday’s TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, and UnitedHealthcare was no exception. For the third consecutive year, we sponsored Team UnitedHealthcare, and I’m proud to say that one of our riders placed 8th today. But, I’m also proud that when not racing, our riders serve as health and wellness ambassadors to local schools, children’s hospitals and YMCAs across the country, talking about the health benefits of exercise and proper nutrition. Earlier in the week, several of the riders held a cycling clinic for seventh graders at the KIPP Philadelphia Charter School, showing them how to eat and work out like a pro to build strength and endurance.

These kinds of interactive events give kids a chance to see cycling as a fun, easy way to get fit. But its benefits go even further. Cycling lets you go places, while benefitting the environment at the same time. Last week on National Bike to Work Day, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter led a group of riders around the city, telling the crowd “You are one of the reasons why Philadelphia has the largest number of folks who bike to work of any major city in the United States of America.” Now that’s something to be proud of. With the increased number of bike paths in the city and the recent summer-like weather, I’ve definitely noticed more people commuting on bikes. And, not just young people or those wearing stretchy cycling togs, but baby boomers too, toting brief cases and groceries.

Creating dedicated bike lanes in our cities is certainly an important step toward promoting cycling in our cities. But, taking a page from Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Portland and other bicycle-friendly cities, we not only need to encourage cycling from an early age, but continue to keep our kids riding throughout their lives, even beyond the lure of the driver’s license.

I have also seen the restorative powers of cycling. For a number of years, it has been UnitedHealthcare’s honor to sponsor Ride2Recovery, an organization enabling veterans to participate in biking challenges throughout the country. With specially adapted bikes, cycling has been a catalyst in both the physical and psychological healing for veterans who participate. Ride2Recovery helps them regain independence and a sense of well-being. To witness the joy and camaraderie among our nation’s finest, leaves a lasting impression.

So hats off to the Team UnitedHealthcare cyclists who took time from their training schedule to spend time with our youth.  At the TD race, I was thrilled to see, among the huge crowd that had gathered on such a beautiful day, so many parents and children of all ages who had ridden their bikes to cheer on the riders.

While the vast majority of us can only dream of performing like these cyclists, or those in the upcoming Olympics or the Tour de France, adding more wheel power in our lives is certainly an idea worth putting in motion.  To learn more about cycling and UnitedHealthcare’s cycling team log onto

The UHC Cycling Team visits with seventh graders at the KIPP Philadelphia Charter School