Friday, September 28, 2012

I Get By With a Little Help from My Family & Friends

Treatment for and recovery from a serious illness or injury takes a physical and emotional toll. It greatly impacts our ability to carry out the everyday tasks of daily living. The routines we take for granted -- caring for kids, cleaning the house, cooking meals, buying groceries -- can become an enormous obstacle. Well-meaning family and friends want to offer their support, but are often too overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, fear or helplessness, and often their own lives, to know what to do. Sometimes, unintentionally, their efforts are misguided, creating even more burdens.

Recognizing the importance of organizing and empowering the friends and family who want to help, UnitedHealthcare created the Many Strong network, which connects your circle of supporters online to keep everyone updated and involved. It takes some of the weight off of you and those closest to you so your main focus can be healing.

Many Strong presents three valuable services for patient support:

Stay Connected: Your Many Strong network enables you to keep everyone in the loop with one status update. As exciting as a positive check-up is, you probably don’t have the time to call everyone individually. The network offers one centralized place for those concerned to get instant updates as well as offer words of encouragement and support. Additionally, it brings all of your supporters together to help each other through this difficult time. Your neighbor may have never met your son’s teacher previously, but this gives them the chance to discuss the best way to talk with him about how he’s handling the situation.

Organize Volunteers: Everyone is happy to help, but what really needs to get done? Seven casseroles on the table for dinner one night while Julia is stuck at soccer practice isn’t the most optimal use of volunteers. Many Strong features a volunteer calendar to prevent that from happening. You can post whatever needs to be done – a ride to treatment, someone to pick up grandmom from the airport, dinner for Tuesday night – and members of your community can sign up for the task and keep track of their scheduled duties.

Raise Funds: Medical bills can pile up quickly. Loved ones are often willing to pitch in to help with the unexpected expenses and Many Strong gives them one centralized, secure place to do so. Monetary donations are automatically loaded onto Many Strong Convenient Cash Cards, which are accepted anywhere you can use Visa. Gift cards are another option, available from hundreds of top retailers. The financial burden of an illness can sometimes be more devastating than the sickness. Many Strong allows your loved ones the chance to help prevent that burden from affecting your family long after your illness has healed.

Beyond just medical issues, Many Strong can be used any time you need a helping hand. Whether it’s the aftereffects of a fire or natural disaster, a military deployment or a new baby, Many Strong can make the difference between coping and having the family unit fall apart. When life comes at you with a difficult situation, it’s human desire to want to do something. With Many Strong, you provide the love and comfort; we just add the technology to make it easier for us all to connect.

For more information, visit


Friday, September 21, 2012

Sounds Like a Plan; And Then Some

A veteran staffer in her 50s with two grown children, a married woman in her mid-30s with three children under age 10 and a single 20-something bachelor, all working for the same small business is quite typical in today’s diverse workplace. What’s also typical is the narrow choice of health benefit options they have to choose from. Until now.  On October 1st, small business employees in the state of Pennsylvania will join small business employees in twenty-three other states who can choose from up to 30 different health plans to meet their diverse health care needs.

UnitedHealthcare’s Multi-Choice health plan for small businesses in Pennsylvania offers 30 different health plan design choices to employers - from comprehensive plans to just the basics. Each plan has different coverage levels, deductibles and premiums to best fit companies’ differing financial and coverage needs.

Being able to adjust premiums and deductibles allows small business employers to offer their employees choices without breaking the budget. The increased flexibility of the Multi-Choice plan actually makes health insurance more cost-effective and financially predictable, enabling small businesses to budget effectively for this important employee benefit. Providing an array of benefit options is becoming a crucial factor to meeting the affordability and cost predictability needs of small business employers while also serving the individual health care needs of their employees.

Employers can “one-stop shop” for any type of health plan they need without having to change carriers. They simply create a package of benefit designs, set the contribution level for those options, and then have each employee pick the option that best meets his or her needs. Based on the plans the employer selects, employees will have the option of buying additional coverage from their employer’s contribution level (or potentially purchasing less if they have fewer health care needs).

No matter which benefit designs employees choose, they will have access to UnitedHealthcare’s wellness and disease management programs, a 24/7 access to health advocates and a national network of more than 650,000 physicians and 5,000 hospitals. Small businesses also have the opportunity to combine the UnitedHealthcare Multi-Choice package with numerous specialty benefits, including dental, life disability and vision.

In the age of reform, health insurance is truly becoming more personalized. Companies are beginning to realize that the plan that keeps the bottom line healthy is the same one that will keep their employees healthy. Plans like Multi-Choice are taking workplace flexibility to a whole new level, with positive results for employees’ overall well-being.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Kids champion the fight against obesity

It’s that time again! UnitedHealth Group is putting out the call to all kids who want to be HEROES  by stepping into service to fight childhood obesity across the county and of course, where I sit in the state of Pennsylvania. We are partnering with Youth Service America to launch the fifth year of the UnitedHealth HEROES program, offering grants of up to $1,000 to youth-led, community-based programs and schools supporting the importance of health and wellness among our youth by encouraging kids to count their steps through walking, running, skipping or hiking. And we hope to have made it easier for them by encouraging them to use one of their favorite communication mediums…the social network.  Yes, we are suggesting that kids use the American Heart Association’s Walking Paths and/or OptumizeMe mobile phone apps to track their progress and invite their friends, family and community to join in the fun and fitness.

I’m proud to say that during the first four years of the program, nearly 1,000 UnitedHealth HEROES grants, totaling almost half a million dollars, have been awarded to groups across the country. Earlier this year I detailed the Pennsylvania 2011-2012 recipients. Last year’s programs were so innovative, I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

To qualify for the grants, the youth-led childhood obesity prevention programs should include a service component that increases awareness, provides direct service, advocates an idea or raises funds to help slow the growing childhood obesity figures. The activities will, appropriately, begin on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (Jan. 21, 2013) and end on Global Youth Service Day (April 26-28, 2013).

More than 12 million children in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’ve all heard such troubling stats before and recognize that childhood obesity is a serious danger. As adults, we know that healthy habits, including physical activity and proper eating, are the easiest and best way to treat and prevent obesity. But, we haven’t exactly been the best role models for our children. According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese.

Maybe it’s time we let the kids give it a try. I know from my own experience as a mother that my sons are always teaching me something. Kids are dedicated, creative, focused and know what will work and inspire their peers, yet sometimes simply lack the means or adult attention to put their ideas in motion. That’s why these grants are so important. There are many young people out there trying to make a difference for themselves and their communities. Who better to mobilize into action against childhood obesity then children themselves?

Applications will be accepted until midnight EST on Oct. 15, 2012 and award recipients will be notified in November. To learn more about the UnitedHealth HEROES program and to apply for a grant, visit Submit your application today and let’s give our kids a chance to set the example of healthy living for us all!

2010 UnitedHealth HEROES award winners

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Doctor Will See You…NOW

Yesterday I attended the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health’s 13th Annual Health Care Futures Symposium,2014: Planning for the Short Term, 2018: Preparing for the Long Haul.” An employer-led, non-profit coalition of large, mid-size, and small businesses, PBGH promotes education, collaboration and innovation to drive and deliver value and quality in health care.  The symposium truly delivered on the Business Group’s mission.  Kudos to PBGH’s executive director, Chris Whipple for bringing a national agenda to Pittsburgh and creating and bringing an engaging day of cutting edge ideas to the largest Symposium audience to date, over 400 people.   

As a proud sponsor of the Symposium and a company committed to growing its business presence in the Pittsburgh community, UnitedHealth Group’s OptumHealth division, in partnership with Rite-Aid, presented its NowClinic initiative to the group.

As I mentioned in a previous post, NowClinic, which is available in 22 states, is a website where consumers can log on to their computer and connect with a physician using secure live chat and converse face-to-face using webcams. Doctors can review the patient’s health concerns and symptoms, discuss medications and assess the need for further treatment when necessary. In Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Pennsylvania, in addition to being able to log in from home, consumers can log in at their local Rite Aid stores. Many say virtual care concepts like NowClinic are transforming the delivery of primary health care by giving consumers access to inexpensive, round-the-clock care for routine problems, until they are able to see their primary care physician.  This is especially important in rural areas where primary care physicians can be scarce and in urban areas where it can be nearly impossible to get a same day appointment with your doctor.

How many times have you suffered through the weekend with routine sinus infection, nagging cough or bladder infection until you could get an appointment with your doctor on Monday? With its convenience and affordability, $45 per visit, the Now Clinic is designed to address the all-too-common occurrence of avoiding the doctor’s office because of time or money constraints, and addresses medical concerns early before they grow into more serious – and costly – problems. To date, the average Now Clinic user is over age 40, needs service during the weekend and visits with the Now Clinic doctor online for just under 9 minutes.
UnitedHealthcare’s Now Clinic project with Rite Aid  is a clear sign of health care’s future direction in the age of reform. The next decade will be all about creative partnerships and taking advantage of technical innovations to transform the delivery of primary health care with a stronger focus on preventative care and more engaged and better-informed consumers. 

To view a demonstration of how the Now Clinic concept works and read what USA Today said about the virtual doctor concept go to
A clear sign of health care's future direction - taking advantage of technical innovations to supplement primary care