Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three Questions You Should Ask Before You Select Your Health Insurance Plan

Open enrollment is the time each fall when most Americans select or change their health benefits for the following year. 

Choosing health care coverage is one of the most important decisions people make. Therefore, it’s essential that consumers fully understand their options during open enrollment so they can choose a plan that will help them enhance their health and possibly save money. 

Even with health insurance coverage now available in many states through government exchanges, the vast majority of Americans – nearly 158 million – continue to obtain health benefits through their employer. Many companies set aside a two-week period between October and December for when their employees can select health benefits.  So, if you are purchasing health insurance through your company’s health plan now is the time to start getting prepared.

Here are three important questions you should ask before selecting your health care benefits:

What are my options?
It may sound simple, but taking the time to review your options is very important. In many cases, people who review their health plan options carefully may find ways to save money on their health care costs – whether it’s through selecting a plan that will cover more of their expected health costs for a major event (such as having a baby or surgery), evaluating prescription drug coverage, or having the opportunity to enroll in an incentive-based wellness program.

Some insurers, including UnitedHealthcare, offer wellness programs or incentive programs that may help you lower your cholesterol, quit smoking or lose weight. These incentives may include gym membership discounts, lower premium costs or merchant gift cards.

Is my doctor in-network?
Even if you don’t plan to make any changes to your health insurance this year, it’s always good to ensure that any doctor you see – or plan to visit in the coming year – is in your plan’s care provider network.

Many insurers offer a broad choice of local in-network health care professionals, and these in-network care providers agree in advance to what they’ll charge for specific procedures. You should also call before your procedure to verify the care providers are in-network. If you plan to visit a doctor or hospital outside the network, be sure to understand how your costs will differ from those of an in-network care provider.

Should I look for a plan that includes vision and dental coverage?
Specialty benefits like dental and vision plans are often available at a minimum cost, and cover annual teeth cleanings and eye exams. Many vision plans also offer reduced pricing on frames and lenses. Research suggests that there is a connection between oral health and overall health, so adding a dental plan may help prevent more serious medical problems.

For help navigating open enrollment, visit, a public online resource with simple, fun videos that help people learn about health care, open enrollment and what to consider when choosing a plan. UHC TV features a “Health Insurance 101” channel with short videos like this one that gives tips on open enrollment:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pennsylvania women are leading the way

Have you experienced the hottest new trend in tailgating, the Phan Cave?

If so, you can thank a couple of intrepid Philadelphia entrepreneurs, Jacqueline McDevitt and Colleen O’Hara, who came up with the idea to provide a hassle-free tailgating experience that maximizes the parking lot experience while minimizing the time and effort to coordinate it.

In fact, their business idea is so great that it just won a $10,000 prize at the 2014 Pennsylvania Business Plan Competition, which challenged women entrepreneurs across Pennsylvania to submit their business plans for a chance at the prize. The finalists pitched their business presentations, “Shark Tank-style,” to judges Lori Greiner, known as the “warm-blooded shark” on ABC’s hit TV show “Shark Tank;” Julia Hearthway, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry; and Renee Amoore, founder and president of the Amoore Group Inc.

Phan Cave co-founders Colleen O’Hara, left, and Jacqueline  McDevitt, right, won the Business Plan Competition after pitching their business to a panel of judges that included Lori Greiner, center. Photo Credit: Joe Appel Photography.

The Business Plan Competition was part of the Women’s Mentorship Symposium held on September 30, a day that celebrated women’s leadership roles in Pennsylvania businesses, non-profits and government. More than 500 women attended the symposium, which was hosted by the Pennsylvania Commission for Women. As chair of the Commission, I was honored to be a featured speaker alongside Governor Tom Corbett, First Lady Susan Corbett, and Lori Greiner.

The symposium also included a speed mentoring program that matched up entry level and mid-level career women with senior-level executive women in a variety of professions. Topics ranged from work-life balance to career transitions to salary negotiations, all in a fast-paced setting.

It was a pleasure to see so many women come together to celebrate the accomplishments that women have made in Pennsylvania and encourage future women to take leadership roles in the economic and civic development of our commonwealth.

After all, it was not so long ago that young women had trouble finding mentors in the workplace because so few women held positions of leadership. But because of initiatives like the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Women’s Mentorship Symposium, it’s getting easier for women to find their roles as leaders. Today, women like the founders of Phan Cave are forging ahead confidently to build successful businesses across our commonwealth.

I look forward to seeing how the next generation of women leaders will use the helping hands of their mentors to accomplish great things and solve big problems. As Lori Greiner said in her keynote address, “You can make anything happen!”

From left to right:  Gina Pferdehirt, Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and Public Relations and Community Relations Director of UPMC Health Plan; Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett; Lori Greiner, the “warm-blooded shark” on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank;” and Sue Schick, Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and Chief Growth Officer at UnitedHealthcare Community & State. Photo Credit: Joe Appel Photography.