Friday, March 29, 2013

Start Walking!

One thing I know for sure, at UnitedHealthcare we not only talk the health and wellness talk; we walk the walk…literally. 

UnitedHealth Group’s National Walk Teams program unites employees across the United States with the goal of generating awareness of and support for organizations which provide important health research, public education and support our mission to help people live healthier lives.

This is the fifth year of the National Walk Teams program. Each year the program has grown thanks to dedicated participants who have joined together and found a meaningful way to make a difference in their communities.

Next Wednesday, April 3, is National Walking Day 2013 and UnitedHealth Group employees across the country will lace up their shoes and walk with their colleagues, friends and family to celebrate a healthy lifestyle.  In some cities, employees will raise funds in support of one of three nonprofit organizations: the American Heart Association; American Cancer Society and Alzheimer’s Association.   Our participation and impact in the National Walk Teams program has been significant including:
  • In 2012, UnitedHealth Group walk teams had more than 5,100 participants.
  • UnitedHealth Group walk teams raised a total of $530,000 at nearly 200 walks across the country.
I love walking even when it’s not cause related.  I find it’s not only the best overall body conditioning exercise; it also allows me to take in my surroundings, clear my head (or do some serious thinking) and breathe deeply. 

UnitedHealthcare employees getting ready for this year's
National Walking Day on April 3rd

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bend the Trend…

Based on everything you may be hearing in print, broadcast and online media sources, I bet it sounds like a Herculean task to try to “Bend the Trend of Ballooning Healthcare Costs.”  And I’m pretty certain that to the hundreds of human resource professionals who attended the 2013 Philadelphia Society of Human Resource Professionals (PSHRM) Symposium, it feels like it at times.

Currently, most costs associated with workplace and workforce performance are growing at an unsustainable rate. The cost of benefits is typically the third largest expense in a company’s budget, behind salaries and real estate.  Reducing these costs has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line and its ability to be competitive in the marketplace.  But how can we bend the trend?  That was the question PSHRM asked. 

Joining me to discuss ways to reduce health care costs was Joseph Torella, President & National Practice Leader, Employee Benefits Division, HUB International; Rick DeOliveira, Director of US Benefits, GlaxoSmithKline; and panel moderator Michele Fletcher, Vice President, Human Resources, University of Pennsylvania Health System.
During our interactive open session, we heard from many in the audience who were concerned about the challenges ahead with the pending new healthcare legislation.  As the first line of defense for the 149 million people who currently get their health insurance and other benefits from their employer, this audience of human resource professionals had real-life questions.

Some of the questions asked included: What one or two things can I do now to bring healthcare costs down? Do Wellness Programs really work? Where is the best place to get information on exchanges? How do we, as HR practitioners, positively communicate wellness initiatives without appearing like “Big Brother”?

But the overall focus was on cost.  And for help controlling costs, we at UnitedHealthcare have found that Wellness Programs do indeed work.

UnitedHealthcare has seen increased interest in our wellness programs because more employers are recognizing that by supporting their employees' desire to improve their health, they can create a happier, healthier workforce while reducing costs for employees and the company. GlaxoSmithKline, whose director of U.S. benefits was also on the panel, continues to be a model for other health plan sponsors. They provide their employees with the necessary information, tools and incentives for ongoing health maintenance and improvement.

Because lifestyle choices and management of chronic conditions have had a major impact on rising costs, employers are recognizing the importance of consumer decision-making and are increasingly turning to innovative programs, such as the use of incentives, to engage their employees in making healthy lifestyle and medical care decisions. 

UnitedHealthcare works with employers and HR professionals every step of the way to help design, implement, and evaluate the appropriate incentive-based wellness program for their employees, and offer incentive-based wellness programs to employers of all sizes.

If you are a small business owner or HR practitioner looking for ways to implement a Wellness program visit  This website offers tools to help you get started bending the trend.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pennsylvania Commission for Women’s new Hannah Callowhill Penn Awards

Did you know that Pennsylvania was in the forefront of the women’s movement long before Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and other activists clamored for women’s rights in the 19th century?

In fact, the colony of Pennsylvania was ruled with an even hand by a woman for 14 years in the beginning of the 18th century. It was Hannah Callowhill Penn, the second wife of William Penn, the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.   Hannah was 28 years younger than her husband and after he was incapacitated by a stroke in 1712, she ruled the colony until her own death in 1726.

Long ignored by history books, Hannah Callowhill Penn is finally getting some recognition, and it’s about time. The Pennsylvania Commission for Women, of which I am chair, is partnering with the Office of the First Lady Susan Corbett to present a new award named after Hannah Penn.

UnitedHealthcare is proud to be the co-sponsor of the inaugural Hannah Penn Leadership Awards.  Our corporate culture, dedicated to fairness and opportunities for advancement of women at all levels, mirrors the values Hannah Penn lived. We look forward to recognizing those who serve as role models, resources and sources of inspiration to the women of The Commonwealth. 

We are also delighted to be involved with Pennsylvania’s First Lady, Susan Corbett, who has a long and distinguished record of community service in many areas, including the arts, parks, children, tourism and economic development.  Her husband,

Governor Tom Corbett, is an advocate of women’s leadership as evidenced by the key leadership roles women hold in his administration.

The Hannah Penn Awards will be given yearly to three Pennsylvania women who have made outstanding contributions through mentoring of other women. We created the award to inspire leadership among women across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by proactively highlighting innovative approaches to mentoring. The recipient of the recognition is intended to be a role model, inspiration, and resource for women and organizations serving women. We will present awards in three categories: Business Leadership, Civic & Volunteer Leadership and Rising Star for women between the ages of 16-29 years old.

The Hannah Penn Award was announced on “Hannah Callowhill Penn Day” in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 12, 2013. The Pennsylvania Commission for Women will publicize the award and seek nominations throughout the calendar year in conjunction with a campaign to promote awareness of Hannah Penn’s leadership.  

Applications will be accepted through December, 31, 2013. We’ll give out the first Hannah Penn Awards in March 2014 at the Commission’s first annual Finding Common Ground Conference in Harrisburg.  Nominations may be made by organizations, businesses and individuals. More information about the Hannah Penn Award and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women can be found at

I urge both men and women to start thinking about the women they know who have really made a difference in the careers and lives of other women. We can honor the memory of Hannah Penn by honoring those women today who are following in her footsteps as leaders and pathfinders.

Susan Corbett announcing the Hannah Penn Award as
Governor Corbett and Sue Schick stand by her side.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A little puppy love is good for the heart

On UnitedHealthcare’s list of recommended treatments for heart conditions, you typically won’t find “puppy” listed.

But this week, it was just what the doctor ordered for Samad, a 3-year-old boy from Philadelphia who suffers from a severe heart condition known as Long QT Syndrome.

Through his illness, Samad hasn’t asked for much but there was one thing he wanted more than anything: a puppy.  When Samad’s mom rewarded him with a dollar one day for doing a good deed, Samad carried it around with him constantly.  When anyone asked what he was going to buy with his dollar, he invariably replied, “my dog.”

Make-A-Wish® Philadelphia & Susquehanna Valley fulfilled Samad’s dream with a friendly female puppy dubbed “Dolly Dollar.” At UnitedHealthcare, we pitched in to throw Samad and Dolly Dollar a puppy shower at our offices to make sure they had all the supplies they’d need to make Dolly Dollar comfortable in her new home.

As part of a renewed three-year, $3 million alliance with UnitedHealth Group, each of Make-A-Wish’s 62 chapters is eligible to receive wish-granting funds.  UnitedHealth Group has funded more than 1,250 wishes beginning with its initial three-year, $4.5 million alliance in 2007.   Additionally, UnitedHealth Group employees and the dollar-for-dollar company match have resulted in more than $2.8 million in donations through the company’s annual United Giving Campaign.

Our partnership with Make-A-Wish often reminds me of the reason why I do what I do.  At UnitedHealthcare, our mission is to help people live healthier lives.  On a daily basis, it’s our job to focus on the details of how we help our plan participants connect with the right doctors, pay for the treatments they need, manage their health care, and adopt healthy habits.

But it’s also important to look up from the details once in a while and make sure that we don’t lose sight of the big picture. When we help people get the healthcare they need, they have more opportunities to enjoy the good things in life, like the love between a little boy and his new puppy.

And that’s a mighty good thing for the heart.

3-year-old Samad celebrating his wish come true with gifts from UnitedHealthcare

Friday, March 8, 2013

“With a Little Help From Our Friends,” we can fight type 1 diabetes

That’s not only a paraphrased line from a great Beatles song but also the theme of this year’s Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Promise Ball 2013.

JDRF is an organization founded in Philadelphia 42 years ago by Lee Ducat, whose son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was nine years old. She asked his doctor at The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania if the diagnosis meant her son would be dependent on insulin for the rest of his life. When he responded that things could change if they had money for research, Ducat’s mind was made up. She threw a cocktail party on May 21, 1970 - and JDRF was born.

Since then, the organization has awarded more than $1.7 billion to diabetes research and has become the leading global organization focused on Type 1 diabetes. The organization’s mission is to encompass every life stage: stopping or slowing the disease’s progression in people newly diagnosed, reversing it in those who have lived with it for years, avoiding or reversing complications, and preventing the disease in people at risk and in future generations. JDRF’s leadership, research funding and advocacy efforts have led to many innovations in the fight against Type 1 diabetes and are a true source of inspiration to all of us.  That’s why we chose to partner with them.

As part of our own mission, UnitedHealthcare works to build and maintain strong relationships in our local communities and work collaboratively with like-minded organizations that share our commitment to help people live healthier lives. Partners like JDRF. We’ve been involved with their Walk to Cure Diabetes and Promise Ball for the past several years. In 2009 and 2010, I was corporate chair for the Walk to Cure Diabetes. The latter year, JDRF named our key accounts director for Eastern Pennsylvania Volunteer of the Year for his pivotal role in raising more than $4 million for the event – the most in its then 40-year history in Philadelphia.

This year, the Eastern Pennsylvania/Delaware chapter has delighted us by naming UnitedHealthcare and me as the 2013 honorees at this year’s Promise Ball. We couldn’t be more proud! It is a great honor to be recognized by an organization that began with such a passionate, dedicated woman and is now run by volunteers equally determined to find a cure. The 2013 Promise Ball is expected to provide more than 600 of the Philadelphia area's most prominent business leaders, professionals, and community members a high-energy, yet elegant, evening of dinner, a silent and live auction and dancing to the sounds of the Fab Four, the ultimate Beatles tribute band, with fantastic opportunities to support Type 1 diabetes research. The event will take place Saturday, April 27, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia.

Come join us, I can guarantee there won’t be any singing out of tune!

Friday, March 1, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Millions of Dollars

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: Many of the chronic diseases that afflict most Americans and add millions to the overall cost of health care delivery are preventable.  The 2012 American’s Health Ranking Report confirmed this fact.  The report found that while American’s are living much longer we are doing so with more chronic illnesses than before.  One of the most widespread is type 2 diabetes.
I’ve also talked about the need for all stakeholders - health insurers, physicians, hospitals, patients and community-based organizations - to work together to develop innovative ways to prevent the onset of diseases like type 2 diabetes.  So I’m happy to point you in the direction of a community-based program that is making a difference.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program was highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article. A national initiative, the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program is easily accessible via your local YMCA.  Research by the National Institutes of Health has proven that programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can reduce the number of cases of type 2 diabetes by nearly 60%.  The cost of the program varies by location but UnitedHealthcare members can submit the cost as a medical claim for reimbursement.  To find a location near you go to

An ounce of prevention really can save millions of health care dollars and add years of healthy living to your life!