Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Three do’s and two don’ts to help you prepare for open enrollment and save on health care costs

More than 4 million UnitedHealthcare members across the state of New York are evaluating their health benefits plan during this open enrollment season. 
Here are three do’s and two don’ts to help you get the most out of your health benefits and better understand how to use your health care dollars.
  1.       Do know your open enrollment dates
Open enrollment isn’t the same or at the same time for everyone, so there are key dates to keep in mind depending on your situation:

·         For the more than 177 million Americans with employer-provided coverage, many companies set aside a two-week period between September and December when employees can select health benefits for the following year.

·         For the more than 58 million seniors and other people enrolled in Medicare, their Open Enrollment runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year.

·         Health insurance marketplace or individual state exchange open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.
 For most people, changes made to coverage during open enrollment take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

2.       Do take time to review your optionsEvery person or family has unique health and budget needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting a health plan.  Confirm that your current coverage still meets your needs and if your benefits will change next year.  If your plan options are changing, select a new plan that is a good fit for your budget, and pay attention to more than just the monthly premium. You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays and coinsurance.
 
3.      Do make sure your doctor is in your health plan’s provider network  and be aware of different care settings
Even if you don’t make any changes to your health insurance this year, it’s still a good idea to ensure that any doctor you see regularly – or plan to visit in the coming year – is in your benefit plan’s care provider network.  
Also, check if your plan includes 24/7 telehealth services for consultations on minor health issues.  Often, telehealth – defined as online, or virtual, visits with a doctor over a computer, tablet or mobile phone – is available to people enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans and group Medicare Advantage plans, as well as select individual Medicare Advantage plans. Virtual visits may provide convenient and affordable access to care for minor medical issues, including allergies, bronchitis and seasonal flu.
Finally, if you experience a significant or serious medical issue go to the ER, but for non-emergency care, be aware of alternative settings. Visits to the emergency room can cost patients up to 10-times more than a visit to urgent care or other care settings, so comparing where to go for care could save $1,500 or more per treatment.
 4.       Don’t forget about additional benefits
Additional benefits such as dental, vision, accident or critical-illness insurance are often affordable options that can protect you and your family from head to toe.  For people enrolled in Medicare, many are surprised to find that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs and most dental, vision and hearing services. But many Medicare Advantage plans do, often at a $0 monthly premium beyond the premium for Original Medicare.
 5.       Don’t Leave financial incentives on the table
Some health plans offer discounts on gym memberships and provide financial incentives for completing health assessments, signing up for health coaching programs, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, meeting walking goals, or stopping smoking. Programs are designed to reward people for making healthy choices and being more engaged in improving their health. 
 
For help navigating open enrollment, visit UHCOpenEnrollment.com for articles and videos with easy-to-understand information about health benefits and health insurance terms.

 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

UnitedHealth Group shows up for Shatterproof

There is no easy solution to the opioid epidemic but, UnitedHealth Group is responding in a variety of ways. By combining our health data and analytics capabilities, our medical and behavioral health expertise and our diversified business portfolio, we offer a range of effective programs and services to play a role in tackling this epidemic. We are continually developing new, research-driven programs and services to address the opioid epidemic’s rapidly changing conditions, which vary widely from state to state and community to community.  And, our employee’s show-up, when needed, to support community based organizations.
On Sunday, October 1st I joined members of my team and hundreds of New Yorkers for a 5K run along Hudson River Park in support of Shatterproof.  It was a beautiful run along the Hudson River and I was happy to see the many companies, families and furry friends who were also there to support an important health initiative.
 
Shatterproof is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and combating the stigma that prevents people from getting the treatment and support they need for the disease of addiction.  UnitedHealth Group provided a grant to the organization for the development of parent support groups that will help families find the proper evidenced-based care for their loved ones and also get support as they navigate the complicated disease of addiction.
 
For more information about Shatterproof and their upcoming fundraising events in Boston, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta visit them at Shatterproof.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sports & Fitness Day at the Bronx Academy of Letters

UnitedHealthcare’s Team 8 Tour is a national campaign aimed at encouraging young people across the country to make healthy choices, build character and learn critical life lessons that will inspire them to be a catalyst for positive social change. In partnership with The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, and CBS Eco Media, the Tour made a stop at the Bronx Academy of Letters last week. The visit focused on the community’s needs for increased sports and fitness opportunities, improved school facilities, and healthier food options.

UnitedHealthcare employee volunteers helped install new fitness equipment, decorated lockers, beautified the school’s front entrance and upgraded the school’s community garden.  In addition, they participated in a sports clinic with student athletes and coaches and, in collaboration with Revolution Foods, lead a group of students in healthy meal preparation.   
 

In 2016, its inaugural year, the Team8 Tour, reached more than 10,000 students and families in support of 18 local community organizations. Additionally, over $100,000 worth of fitness gear was donated to promote healthy and active lifestyles. The first four stops of the 2017 Team8 Tour were completed in Baltimore, MD, Immokalee, FL, and Greensboro & High Point, NC earlier this year.

The Team8 Tour has inspired young people in our communities to take charge of their health, get involved and make a difference in their communities. UnitedHealthcare is honored to have contributed to such an important community program.

Hall of Fame baseball great Cal Ripkin Jr. (center) joins Team8 leaders along with Dr. Adam Aponte, medical director, UHC Community Plan and Shannon Loecher, social responsibility, UnitedHealthcare

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

$10,000 UnitedHealthcare ‘Community Care Award’

UnitedHealthcare knows that the contribution we make in communities extends beyond the service we deliver to our members. That’s why UnitedHealthcare will award $10,000 to a Syracuse-area small business as part of our Community Care Award; a competition that seeks the best new idea for enhancing community health and wellness.  

New York businesses with two to 250 employees in Oswego, Onondaga, Cortland, Madison, and Oneida counties are eligible to submit a project idea for enhancing their communities’ health and wellness. Projects can be new ideas or existing programs. Businesses simply need to submit their project idea using the online application before midnight on Friday, September 29, 2017.

All projects must include a partnership with a local nonprofit organization. Applicants are asked to describe in 300 words or less the community activity their company will engage in with their non-profit partner, including description of project, duration and employee involvement.

Judges will evaluate the project submissions and select the top-five projects based on criteria such as potential community impact, creativity, uniqueness and feasibility.  

The top-five applicants and representatives from their benefiting nonprofits will be invited in November to a live pitch and networking event in Syracuse, New York where a panel of business, community and health care leaders will select the 2017 UnitedHealthcare Community Care Award winner.  

The 2016 UnitedHealthcare Community Care Award went to Simply Ballroom. A dance studio based in Richmond, Virginia.  Simply Ballroom used the $10,000 award to fund its therapeutic dance classes for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  To review the official rules and apply for the award as a Richmond, VA business owner go to www.uhc.com/communitycare.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Call to Action: Consider Giving Back While Back-to-School Shopping

As families in New York and New Jersey start preparing for the end of summer and the start of another school year, I feel it’s important to talk about our friends at Operation Backpack and the generosity of New York Giant’s cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Operation Backpack, an initiative led locally by the Volunteers of America’s Greater New York chapter, is the largest back-to-school drive in New York City for students who are homeless. It’s an admirable organization that brings together thousands of people from dozens of local communities – all donating their time and resources to ensure every student, regardless of his or her economic standing, family background or hometown, will start the school year fully prepared to learn and succeed.
 
Last week my colleagues and I at UnitedHealthcare had an opportunity to work with the Volunteers of America to assemble hundreds of backpacks of grade-specific school supplies to support this initiative. Seeing the amount of donated supplies – from dictionaries and thesauruses to calculators and compasses; watercolor paint sets to washable markers – was inspiring, yet—at the same time—harrowing. The collective generosity of our friends and neighbors made me proud to be a New Yorker.
Team UHC is ready to stuff hundreds of backpacks full school supplies for homeless children.
 
Operation Backpack has been operating in the City since 2004, helping children from every borough start the schoolyear feeling prepared and confident. Today, with family homelessness at a record-high in New York City, it’s clear that their mission is more important than ever.

The need is also great in New Jersey.  On August 22nd a group of UnitedHealthcare employee volunteers helped the Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie Foundation launch its inaugural Back-to-School Bash at the Boys & Girls Club in Clifton, New Jersey.  The carnival style event was kicked-off by Dominique's Father, Stanley Cromartie who, along with UHC volunteers, helped build excitement for the new school year.  More than 250 boys and girls rotated between interactive and mind stimulating games set-up around the Boys & Girls Club gymnasium.  Each student received free school supplies.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Stanley Cromartie and UnitedHealthcare's John Verga hand out school supplies to students at the Clifton, NJ Boys & Girls Club
As you and your family go through your Back-to -School shopping list, consider picking up a few extra supplies and donating them to the children in need in your community.  For a list of needed supplies, and to learn more about Operation Backpack, visit: https://www.voa-gny.org/what-goes-in-a-backpack

 
Students at Clifton Boys & Girls Club line up to answer health, wellness and science questions as part of the Back-to-School Bash sponsored by the Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Foundation
 

 

Monday, July 31, 2017

12,000 New Yorkers Celebrate Healthy Living at Rally HealthFest

MOVE in a challenging spin class, high energy Zumba class or fun obstacle course; EAT a high energy bar and water infused with strawberries and mint; CARE for yourself by getting an upper body massage; FEEL by writing what you are grateful for on the Rally Grateful Wall and...HAVE FUN!  These were the challenges presented to 12,000 thousand New Yorkers who attended the second annual Rally® HealthFest held on Saturday, July 29, 2017, at Nelson A. Rockefeller Park. 
Hertz employee, Pernell Simpson and Elizabeth Zambrana get Moving at Rally HealthFest
 
Actor, comedian and Rally Health Ambassador, Kevin Hart hosted the family friendly event along with his personal trainer, Ron “Boss” Everline, and fitness star Robin Arzon.  The event was open to the public at no cost. UnitedHealthcare encouraged employees of clients with a UnitedHealthcare or Oxford health plan to take part in this day of health and wellness fun.  
Kevin Hart greets the Rally HealthFest participants
Rally, is a health and wellness portal that combines technology, gaming and social media to help people find personalized ways to eat better, move more, become more informed and improve their health. The customized portal is designed to motivate and empower people to take ownership of their health. The interactive experience includes:

  • a health survey that calculates the individual's “Rally age;”
  • tailored invitations to create personal missions based on the individual's Rally age;
  • a personalized health record;
  • rewards (“coins”) for completion of tasks or new behaviors, with the opportunity to use coins to enter sweepstakes;
  • social media and gaming that supports participation and builds community; and
  • a dashboard that showcases personal progress and content.
Users receive positive feedback in the form of “coins” for completing a task or changing to healthier behaviors. The coins can be used to enter sweepstakes.  

The Rally HealthFest aligns perfectly with UnitedHealthcare’s mission to help people live healthier lives. The HealthFest experience inspires people to actively engage in their health, individually and collectively.   Kudos to UnitedHealthcare and Oxford Rally members from JP Morgan Chase, Hertz, AIG and Jet Blue, who were among the thousands in attendance.  

Rally and other UnitedHealthcare tools are designed to help make managing your health and your health care plan easier so that you and your family can live a healthier, happier life!

Ingrid Martinez and "Team AIG" pause for a photo during Rally HealthFest
 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Not all HSAs are created equal

Recently released reports from Employee Benefit Research Institute and Morningstar found that many people don’t take full advantage of their health savings accounts (HSAs), that those who do could be getting a lot more bang for their buck and that some HSAs are better than others. 

A health savings account enables individuals to pay for their share of health care with pretax dollars, and by law can only be established in conjunction with a low premium, high deductible health care insurance plan.  Employees can save money in the HSA tax-free and draw it out anytime they want to help pay their health insurance deductible, co-pay and qualified medical expenses, including those, like dental and vision, that may not be covered by their health insurance plan. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), employees don’t have to spend what they put into an HSA by the end of the year, but can let it accumulate for future medical needs and if they change jobs, their HSA account is portable, which means they keep their account if they leave the company.

In 2017, people with an HSA account can choose to save up to $3,400 for an individual and $6,750 for a family (people 55 and older get to save an extra $1,000 which means $4,400 for an individual and $7,750 for a family) – and these contributions are 100% tax deductible from gross income.  People can spend the money in their health savings account on current medical bills or choose to invest their balance to pay for health costs in retirement. 

So why aren’t people taking full advantage of these accounts and what makes some better than others?  The answer to the first question can be summed up in three words – lack of information.  Trying to understand the many aspects of a HSA plan can be daunting.  That’s why UnitedHealthcare created HSACenter to help consumers become better informed.  The HSACenter includes video clips, interactive calculators to estimate health insurance savings, tax savings and future value with an HSA, an extensive FAQ, and list of qualified medical expenses.  

With regards to what makes some HSA plans better than others, this depends on how the account is used.  People who use their account to cover current medical expenses should look for an HSA account with a low monthly maintenance fee.  For people who view their HSA as a tax advantaged vehicle to save for medical expenses not covered by Medicare during their retirement years, Morningstar suggests they look at the variety of asset classes available, the quality of funds based on their likelihood of outperforming benchmarks and the total cost of the funds.  In this category, UnitedHealthcare’s Optum Bank was one of four accounts that received overall positive assessments based on the criteria used in the Morningstar report. 
 
Whether it is used to pay current medical bills or those in the future, health savings account plans give people an incentive and tools to better manage their health care costs.