Friday, November 18, 2016

Giving back this Thanksgiving season

As we approach the season of giving and gratitude, I’m proud to say that at UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey, we got an early start. Last month our employees joined The Diocese of New Jersey in their fifth annual “Soles for the Harvest” 5K and 1 mile fun run. The course started at the Cream Ridge Winery, and wound past horse farms and through historic Walnford Park in scenic Cream Ridge, N.J. UnitedHealthcare employees and community members from across the New Jersey Diocese raised funds for people who are facing food insecurity. They also collected and donated canned goods for the Allentown Food Pantry.

The Janney family (Dominic, Elizabeth, Isabelle, Liliene and Colette) at the Soles for Harvest event

Earlier this week,  Saint Peter’s Adult Day Center participants in Monroe Township and Saint Peter’s Foundation staff joined UnitedHealthcare employees in assembling the “Grins to Go” bags, which are boredom-busting bags of toys and activities to lift the spirits of any child, whether in a hospital, a waiting room or doctor’s office. The bags, filled with toys and activities, were created by the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation to bring smiles to sick children and their families.

Once assembled, I joined UnitedHealthcare employees to deliver Grins to Go™ bags to children at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the day just a bit brighter for hospitalized children and I was grateful for the opportunity to deliver Grins to Go bags to many of the children being treated.

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) provides medical grants that help children gain access to health-related services not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. Families do not have to have insurance from UnitedHealthcare in order to apply.  Since 2007, UHCCF awarded more than 12,000 grants to children across the United States to improve their clinical condition and quality of life.  Of these grants, 250 went to children in New Jersey.  Parents across the country can apply for grants online at

The public can get involved as well by purchasing and donating individual Grins to Go bags at, selecting the “Grins2” link and choosing or nominating a hospital to receive the bags. Bags can also be purchased on

Friday, September 23, 2016

Optum Creates 700 “Craft Kits” to Support Project Sunshine and Comfort Children Facing Medical Challenges

Kudos to my colleagues at Optum who hosted a volunteer event in our Basking Ridge, New Jersey office yesterday. Approximately 90 Optum employees assembled more than 700 “Craft Kits” filled with fun and educational items that will be donated to children in local hospitals in an effort to restore a crucial sense of normalcy in their day-to-day lives.

Optum employees ready to create craft kits for kids in the hospital
The event supported Project Sunshine, an organization that enlists more than 15,000 volunteers to bring programming - recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social service (HIV and nutritional counseling) - to 100,000 children facing medical challenges and their families in 175 cities across the United States and in four international locations: Canada, China, Israel and Kenya.

Employees hard at work building educational craft kits for kids
Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 100,000 people worldwide, Optum delivers intelligent, integrated solutions that help to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of UnitedHealth Group.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Expanded Asian Resource Center in Edison offers in-person Medicare education, special resources for Asian-American community

From left to right: James Olmstead, UnitedHealthcare; Michel Nieson, UnitedHealthcare; Phillip Franz, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement; John Ng, managing director, Jovival Inc.; Chris Law, national vice president, UnitedHealthcare Asian Initiative; Josephine Ho, executive director, NJ Chinese-American Chamber of Commerce; Mark Park, immediate past-president, NJ Korean-American Chamber of Commerce & councilman of Englewood Cliffs; Paul Marden; Laura Bermingham, UnitedHealthcare,; Ivy Lee, Sino Monthly
Medicare benefits can be confusing for many older adults. And it may be even more confusing for seniors to understand their Medicare options if English isn’t their native language or they experience cultural barriers.

That’s why UnitedHealthcare has expanded its Asian Resource Center in Edison, New Jersey to offer in-person assistance to anyone who has questions about Medicare.  The expanded health benefits store provides enhanced customer service and health education customized for Asian-Americans in Middlesex County. The Resource Center’s customer service representatives speak Cantonese, Mandarin and South Asian dialects. A hotline is available for Korean-language inquiries at 1-888-201-4746; TYY 711.

Located in Festival Plaza on Route 27, the Resource Center is more than three times larger than UnitedHealthcare’s original Edison Resource Center on Lincoln Highway, which will enable the office to serve approximately 120,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Middlesex County, 23% of which are Asian-American.
Outside the expanded retail store in Edison, NJ

The Center’s customer service representatives are available to answer questions about Medicare coverage and help people sign up for community and government assistance programs, such as the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged & Disabled (PAAD) and Senior Gold programs. They can also help translate important documents, such as documents related to Social Security benefits. The expanded Resource Center has space to host community health and wellness programs.
Inside the storefront office in Edison, NJ
UnitedHealthcare was one of the first health plans to offer health care services tailored to the cultural needs of Asian-Americans. In fact, UnitedHealthcare founded its Asian Initiatives business more than 20 years ago when it opened an office in New York City’s Chinatown in 1994.

At UnitedHealthcare, we know that understanding Medicare benefits can be challenging, especially for those who do not speak English as their first language. With our expanded Asian Resource Center, we remain committed to providing people with a choice of innovative health and well-being solutions that help them access the quality care they need and enjoy the superior experience they deserve.

For more information and resources about Medicare, visit

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Veterans cycle through N.J. during 330-mile 9/11 Challenge

While our country paused for a moment to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., it doesn’t take long for life to go on again as usual.

But for those who served in the military, the physical and mental wounds of war continue to linger on.

This week, just a few days after the 9/11 anniversary, we should remember the ongoing challenges our military members face as a group of 90 injured veterans ride through New Jersey during the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery 9/11 Challenge, a 330-mile bike ride from Washington, D.C. to New York City.

Riders coming into Princeton
Riders stopped for lunch at the New Jersey Hospital Association Event & Conference Center on Sept. 13
Ride 2 Recovery is a groundbreaking program that uses the physical and mental challenge of long-distance cycling to help improve veterans’ physical health and psychological wellness. Veterans who participate in the program use a wide variety of bikes adapted to their needs, including traditional road bikes, hand cycles, tandems, recumbent bikes and other specially-fitted bicycles.

UHC and Siemens employees greeted the Veterans as they rode into Iselin, NJ
The group began their journey on September 11 in Arlington, VA, and rode through Maryland and Pennsylvania. Their first stop in New Jersey is on September 13 at 11 a.m. at the New Jersey Hospital Association Conference and Event Center in Princeton. They will then continue on to Newark, stopping at UnitedHealthcare’s offices in Iselin along the way. On September 14, they will depart Newark for a round-trip ride to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, which is the final leg of their journey.

UnitedHealthcare & Siemens employees cheered on riders

At UnitedHealthcare, we are proud to help veterans live healthier lives, and have been the title sponsor of Ride 2 Recovery challenges nationwide for the past six years. Programs like Ride 2 Recovery play a critical role in not only encouraging veterans to recover their physical strength and stamina, but also in helping them gain a sense of camaraderie, hope and purpose to support their mental and emotional recovery from the experience of war.

We hope New Jersey residents who live or work near the biking route for our veterans will join us in cheering them along. To view more details about the ride route, click here.

Monday, August 8, 2016

More NJ small businesses self-funding insurance plans

A growing number of small businesses in New Jersey are finding a new way to save money on their health care costs by switching to self-funded health care plans over traditional health care plans.

Under a traditional plan, employers pay a premium each month and the health insurer pays all of the employee claims and manages the health plan administration. But many small employers have a relatively healthy staff, and employees’ actual medical costs fall far below what the company spends on premiums.

Thus, many employers wonder if they could save money by paying their own employee claims directly, an arrangement called a self-funded health plan. With a self-funded plan, the employer still contracts with a health insurer to administer the health plan, but the employer pays employee medical claims directly. If the employees’ medical claims are lower than expected, the employer may save a significant amount of money.

In the past, self-funded plans were not available to small employers because it was difficult to make a realistic prediction about health costs based on such a small pool of employees. But in the last few years, advances in software have enabled companies to better predict the expected cost of health care for a small number of employees. Now, many insurers are offering new self-funded health plans specifically catered to small businesses’ needs. In fact, UnitedHealthcare recently expanded its All Savers self-funded health plan for small businesses to a much broader range of businesses in New Jersey.

Small businesses that are thinking of switching to a self-funded plan should research the following when shopping:
1.      Stop-loss insurance. Self-funded plans carry a risk that the company’s health care costs could skyrocket if an employee is diagnosed with a serious illness or is injured. Companies can protect themselves from such catastrophic costs by coupling a self-funded plan with a stop-loss insurance policy, which protects companies against catastrophic claims that exceed a certain dollar limit.
2.      Pre-deductible credits. Many employees may feel that they don’t receive many benefits from their plans because their annual costs are typically less than their deductible, which means they essentially pay for everything out of pocket. But some self-funded plans provide medical credits to help employees cover costs before their deductibles. For example, UnitedHealthcare’s All Savers plans offer a medical credit up to $1,000 that covers medical expenses before the deductible.
3.      Innovative wellness programs. Healthier employees naturally lead to lower health care costs. Insurers that offer innovative ways to help employees track and manage their physical fitness can help lower overall health care costs over time.
4.      Online cost estimators. Many employees may not realize it, but health care costs may vary wildly among different providers with no difference in quality.. Giving employees the tools to compare the cost of a procedure at different providers may help them choose a lower-cost option.

Self-funded plans have the potential to help small businesses save significantly on their health care costs. The key, however, is to work with an insurer that can provide plenty of tools to help the company minimize its overall health care costs. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

UnitedHealthcare, Cal Ripken Jr. and CBS EcoMedia host Fun & Fitness Day in Jersey City

Thanks to baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. and community volunteers, students at St. Anthony’s high school in Jersey City will have a nicer place to enjoy sports and physical activity this school year.

On August 2, volunteers from UnitedHealthcare, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, and CBS EcoMedia worked together for “Fun and Fitness Day” at St. Anthony’s High School. Our volunteers revamped the weight room, which included installing new flooring and equipment and organizing and cleaning the area. Volunteers also prepped and painted both the girls and boys locker rooms. Outside, workers installed wind protectors, patched up uneven ground, built raised gardens, mulched and cleaned up the outdoor fitness area. Afterward, the Ripken Foundation presented its Uncommon Athlete program, which uses sports as a platform to encourage positive leadership among student athletes.
UHC’s Greg Acquaviva, left, with Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Bill Ripken, and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro 
Team of UnitedHealthcare volunteers ready to improve athletic facilities at St. Anthony's HS in Jersey City

When the work was done, volunteers, school staff and community members joined Cal Ripken Jr. in a pick-up basketball game to show students the fun and camaraderie of team sports.

Greg Acquaviva, vice president of state government affairs at UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey, prepares for a pick-up basketball game with baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr.
UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey employees John Verga, vice president of key account sales and management, and Bob Benkert, vice president of small business sales & account management, get ready to roll up their sleeves to upgrade St. Anthony High School's athletic facilities

The event was part of the Team8 Tour, a partnership between UnitedHealthcare, CBS EcoMedia, and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Created in honor of Hall-of-Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.’s father, the foundation supports youth sports programs in America’s most distressed communities as a way to help build character and teach critical life lessons.
The volunteer event to give students at St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City safe, beautiful athletic facilities garnered support from legislators, sports legends, health care companies and others. From left to right: New Jersey Senator Sandra Cunningham, St. Anthony's championship basketball coach Bob Hurley, UnitedHealthcare's Greg Acquaviva, and New Jersey Assemblyman Raj Mukherji
The Team8 Tour is part of UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good. Live Well.” employee volunteer program. In 2015, more than 60 percent of our employees volunteered through our program, providing nearly 410,000 hours of work to build healthier communities.

Home Depot donated volunteers and supplies to the project.
Jersey City was the fifth stop on the Team8 Tour. Previously, the team performed volunteer projects in Houston, Charlotte, Raleigh and Chicago. After Jersey City, the team plans to do projects in New York City, Los Angeles and Denver. To learn more about the Team8 Tour, visit

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cumberland County Health Department Kicks-Off “Live Healthy Cumberland County” Program to Help 27 Local Corner Store Owners Stock Healthier Foods

Today, I’m excited to join with community leaders and public officials in Cumberland County to kick off “Live Healthy Cumberland County,” a program supported by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (NJHCQI) and a $ 550,000 partnership grant from United Health Foundation.

The effort aims to reduce chronic disease by increasing the number of healthy food items available at 27 local corner stores throughout Cumberland County and providing free health screenings for residents.

Live Healthy Cumberland County is part of a public-private partnership with local health care and community leaders working to improve health and quality of life in Cumberland County, Trenton and Jersey City.

The grant will support five organizations and their affiliates participating in the project. In Cumberland County, NJHCQI partners with the Cumberland County Health Department and Inspira Health Network. NJHCQI project partners in Jersey City are the Jersey City Department of Health and the Jersey City Medical Center. The Trenton Health Team is NJHCQI’s project partner in Trenton.

“We greatly appreciate the work of Megan Sheppard and her staff at the Cumberland County Health Department in taking a proactive approach to address the health challenges we encounter in Cumberland County. We are also very appreciative of all the partners who have stepped up to help us bring this project to fruition,” said Board of Health Liaison Freeholder Carol Musso.

Live Healthy Cumberland County was created by the Cumberland/Salem/Gloucester Health and Wellness Alliance which includes representatives from more than forty-two organizations. The goal of Live Healthy Cumberland County is to improve health outcomes throughout the region. Cumberland County Health Department is partnering with the Vineland Health Department and Vineland YMCA to implement Live Healthy Cumberland County.

“The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders is very pleased to be a part of this collaborative effort. As this project moves forward it will create a healthier Cumberland County,” said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joe Derella.

Local elected officials, Cumberland County residents as well as representatives from the Cumberland County Health Department, Inspira Health Network, the Vineland Health Department, Vineland YMCA, NJHCQI, UnitedHealthcare and local corner-stores joined the kickoff event.

“This initiative addresses some of the biggest barriers to health care our neighbors face by improving access to healthy foods, creating safe spaces to relax and exercise, and supporting other essential community services, said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of NJHCQI.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Telemedicine helps people get faster, more convenient care

For many people, getting to the doctor can be a major hassle. It may mean waiting a few days until the next available appointment, scheduling time off of work or finding a babysitter. And for some people, particularly those who live in rural areas or in areas with a shortage of physicians, it may require significant travel.

Thus, some people avoid going to the doctor for minor medical issues, which may cause the issue to worsen. Others may choose to visit an urgent care clinic, which typically has more convenient hours but is also far more expensive.

Fortunately, many health insurers are making telemedicine benefits available to more people. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that 74 percent of employers now cover virtual doctor visits in their health plans, up from 48 percent in 2015. Virtual doctor visits enable patients experiencing a non-urgent health issue to consult a physician via video chat using their phones, computers, smartphones or tablets. Patients often use the service to treat minor medical conditions such as allergies, sinus infections, bladder infections and other conditions.

As many people become more comfortable using technology to access critical services such as banking and transportation, they are likewise increasingly using technology to make health care services more convenient. According to the American Telemedicine Association, more than 10 million people directly benefited from using telemedicine in 2014, and the numbers continue to increase. At UnitedHealthcare, 95 percent of people who used one of our telehealth services said they would definitely use the service again.

Without question, virtual doctor visits don’t take the place of critical medical care. But for consultations and prescriptions to treat minor medical issues, people should find out whether their insurer offers telemedicine services to help them quickly and efficiently get the care they need.

Monday, June 13, 2016

$1.35 million grant from United Health Foundation to improve mental health care for NJ veterans

For many veterans, coming home from combat marks the beginning of a new battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, substance abuse, depression and other mental and emotional wounds of war.

Unfortunately, most community health care providers are not well prepared to care for the special needs of military veterans and their families. According to a study commissioned by the Military Officers Association of America and the United Health Foundation, only 13 percent of civilian mental health care providers met criteria for military cultural competency or used evidence-based approaches to treat problems commonly seen among veterans.

The result is that many of the men and women who have served our country and their families aren’t getting the appropriate mental health care to help them heal. That’s why the United Health Foundation has announced a $1.35 million grant and partnership with the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA) to bolster veteran health care through innovative partnerships and community engagement. In particular, the grant will expand the Veteran Navigator program. Veteran Navigators are veterans who have received special health care training and can help direct their military peers to high-quality local mental health, behavioral health and supportive services, especially in underserved areas of the state.
Veteran Navigators applaud the new grant
Veterans show their support for expanded Veteran Navigator program and better access to health care for veterans in all areas of New Jersey 
The United Health Foundation and NJHA announced the new partnership and grant at a forum in Princeton, NJ on June 13, “Managing the Complexity of Veteran Health: Serving Those Who Have Served.” In addition to executives from UnitedHealthcare and NJHA, Veteran Navigators Don Sanford and Jaye Silver were in attendance along with New Jersey public officials; U.S. Representative Tom MacArthur (NJ-3), Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Adjutant General Michael Cunniff attended the forum to show their support for the initiative.

Speakers at the health forum in Princeton "Managing the Complexity of Veteran Health: Serving Those Who Have Served" include (from left to right): Paul Marden; NJHA President & CEO Betsy Ryan,; U.S. Representative Tom MacArthur (NJ-3), Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno; Veterans Affairs Adjutant General Michael Cunniff.

In appreciation for the service of our veterans, we have an obligation to ensure that they get the health care they need when they return home. By expanding the Veteran Navigators program, we can ensure that New Jersey veterans who live in all parts of the state, including rural and underserved communities, can access high-quality programs and services that can improve their health and quality of life.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“Healthy Communities Create Healthy Citizens”

On Friday, May 20th I was proud to be at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton, NJ to announce United Health Foundation’s $550,000 grant award to the New Jersey Healthcare Quality Institute (NJHCQI).  The grant will support the Institute’s “Healthy Communities Create Healthy Citizens” project.  I was joined by Trenton Mayor, Eric Jackson, Trinity Cathedral’s Bishop William Stokes as well as NJHCQI program partners from Jersey City and Cumberland County.

Valerie Harr, deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, presented a proclamation  from Governor Christie hailing the project
The “Healthy Communities Create Healthy Citizens” project is a public-private partnership among local health care and community leaders who are working to improve people’s health and quality of life in Trenton, Jersey City and Cumberland County, N.J.  United Health Foundation’s support will enable NJHCQI to help local organizations expand innovative healthy-lifestyle and health-literacy programs. For example, in Cumberland County, the grant will support a “healthy corner-store” initiative, through which local store-owners will be incented to sell fresh produce and display healthier foods at the front of the store. In Trenton, the grant will support a number of health topic seminars at local food pantries and churches, where residents can “shop” at the food pantry, eat a healthy free lunch, learn about diabetes prevention and chronic disease self-management, participate in fitness-related giveaways and receive helpful reading materials. Residents in all three areas will have access to an online search engine that connects them to health resources and social services in their town.

After the grant announcement everyone was invited to join in a wellness walk and explore Trinity Cathedral’s newly refurbished grounds, including its labyrinth and butterfly garden.  Free lunch and health screenings were provided for nearly seventy-five Trenton residents and, thanks to the presence of one of my Optum colleagues, we were able to point a Trenton resident in need of behavioral health services in the right direction.  

Nurses conducted free health screenings for Trenton residents
As a local health plan CEO for the largest health insurer in the U.S, my job is challenging and often requires that I make tough decisions.  I am grateful for last Friday’s opportunity to announce a program that will help expand services and ensure that people in need have access to health and well-being services that help build healthy New Jersey communities.
Leaders and members of the Trenton community enjoyed a free lunch at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral following the grant announcement

Monday, April 25, 2016

Coordinated care leads to healthier lives

To help improve patients’ overall health and simplify the health care experience, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with a number of accountable care organizations (ACOs).  An ACO is a group of health care providers, hospitals and insurers who work together to coordinate and pay for patients’ care. Recently, we announced that UnitedHealthcare is partnering with JFK Population Health ACO in Edison, New Jersey.

More than 6,600 people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s employer-sponsored and Medicare health plans in central New Jersey are eligible to benefit from this collaboration. Through this collaborative program, insurers, hospitals and care providers work together to coordinate patients’ care, share technology and patient information, and ensure that patients get the most appropriate care at the right time. The program will also provide services that help patients manage chronic health conditions and live healthy lifestyles.

ACOs nationwide are proving that the coordinated care model is the future of health care.  This patient-centric model helps people live healthier lives by focusing on improving their overall health, not just addressing health issues one-by-one. Furthermore, ACOs reward care providers for giving the most appropriate and cost-efficient care that results in the best health outcomes for the patient. In short, this model of care leads to better health, better care and lower costs.

For more information about how UnitedHealthcare is working smarter and better to help people live healthier lives, visit:



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UnitedHealthcare Health Bee puts students on path to good health

Their fingers on the buzzers, the students were quiet and focused as they began the final round of the 2016 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee at the Westfield Area Y on March 16. With each correct answer, parents, teachers, classmates and even the mayors cheered as their home team got a little bit closer to earning the title of 2016 Health Bee Champions.

Students concentrate as they get ready to buzz in
Parents, teachers, classmates and local officials cheered on the teams
Approximately 50 students participated in the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee, which is a high-energy competition that quizzes students on their knowledge about health, science, fitness and nutrition. In the end, Hillside Avenue School prevailed, taking home the top title and a $1,000 prize from UnitedHealthcare to support health and fitness programs at the school. Deerfield School earned second place and a $500 prize, while Lincoln School took home the school spirit award and a $250 prize.

Hillside Avenue School took home the top prize
This year marked the seventh year that UnitedHealthcare has hosted the Health Bee in partnership with the Westfield Area Y. We began the competition as a way to educate kids about good health at a critical juncture in their development as they begin to make their own choices about what to eat, how often to exercise and how they feel about their bodies. The YMCA incorporated the Health Bee into its 7th Grade Initiative, which teaches students about fitness, nutrition, positive body image and self esteem. Students also receive a complimentary YMCA membership allowing them access to the pool, gym and fitness equipment at the YMCA.

Over the years, the community has rallied to support the annual UnitedHealthcare Health Bee. Not only do the students enjoy the friendly competition, but parents, teachers, siblings and classmates fill the gym to cheer on their teams and celebrate good health. Local public officials, including Mayor Charles Lombardo of Garwood and Mayor Paul Mirabelli of Mountainside, also show up to lend their support to the program.

The high-energy competition brought out students' team spirit
Because of the popularity and success of the competition, UnitedHealthcare has expanded the program to other New Jersey YMCAs. Later this spring, we will host competitions at YMCA branches in Elizabeth, Metuchen and Fanwood/Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

For more information about the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee program contact Mary McElrath-Jones at

Friday, March 18, 2016

UnitedHealthcare selected as a “Champion of Good Works”

Commerce and Industry Association of NJ salutes corporate philanthropy

Earlier this week I was proud to accept the “Champion of Good Works” award on behalf of UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare was named a "Champion of Good Works''  by the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) at its recent Chairman's Reception saluting the generosity of the business community.

More than 250 business executives attended the gala reception at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack. Martin Kafafian, chairman of the CIANJ board of directors, presented trophies to 33 businesses. "For most of these companies their donations, kindness and community outreach are part of their corporate culture -- their mission," said Kafafian, who is also a managing member of the Beattie Padovano law firm in Montvale. "The public at large is often unaware of the magnitude and scope of the good works. This reception is our way of shining a spotlight on "Companies that Care."

UnitedHealthcare was selected for its work with Ride2Recovery, a 501(c)(3) organization, that helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling and its signature “UnitedHealthcare Health Bee” program.  UnitedHealthcare partners with NJ area YMCA branches to host UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competitions for 7th grade middle school students.  The Health Bee is a Jeopardy-style quiz competition designed to get middle school students excited about health, fitness and nutrition.  2016 marks the seventh year that UnitedHealthcare has hosted the Health Bee in partnership with the Westfield Area Y. UnitedHealthcare will host three additional Health Bee competitions in partnership with YMCA branches in Elizabeth, Metuchen and Fanwood/Scotch Plains, New Jersey during spring 2016.

The CIANJ is a statewide business advocacy organization based in Paramus. It represents more than 900 member companies from every business sector. The association asked businesses to submit stories of their good works and more than 90 responses were received this year.  A panel of judges, representing executives at non-profit organizations across New Jersey, reviewed all the submissions and selected the champions.

I was honored to have two of my YMCA partners, Mark Elsasser, CEO, Westfield Area Y and Mike Johnson, Director, Gateway Family YMCA in Elizabeth, join me in accepting the award.   It is through relationships like the one we have developed over the years that allows both of our organizations to develop and implement community initiatives, like the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee, that encourages all, young and old, to strive towards better health.

The Westfield Area YMCA and Gateway Family YMCA joined UnitedHealthcare in accepting CIANJ's "Champion of Good Works" Award

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New resource for caregivers

More than 16% of all adults in America reported serving as unpaid caregivers to elderly or disabled adults in 2015, according to AARP’s study “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.” The study also reported that 60% of those caregivers also hold down jobs, which means that significant portion of workers are struggling to balance work duties with the demands of care giving.

Although usually done with love, caregiving duties are often strenuous, and may include tasks such as managing multiple medications, dressing wounds, cooking food according to a special diet, giving injections and operating medical equipment. For an untrained caregiver, these duties often cause high levels of physical and emotional stress, and the cost of care can add additional financial strain.

In many cases, the stresses of caregiving affect the caregiver’s health and work performance. According to the AARP study, more than half of employed caregivers experienced at least one change in their employment situation as a result of being a caregiver, such as reducing work hours, taking a leave of absence, or receiving a warning about their performance of attendance.

That’s why UnitedHealthcare has launched Solutions for Caregivers, a program for large employers with a self-funded health plan. The program features in-person, telephonic and online resources to help caregivers save money and more effectively assist their loved ones. Some of these resources include:
·         Information: The online content includes articles and videos that give tips for caring for loved ones with specific health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack and stroke.
·         Marketplace: The marketplace is an online store that makes it easy for caregivers to find and purchase products and services that support their needs, such as home safety products, home-delivered meals and specialty products.
·         Support: Caregivers frequently work with other family members and health care professionals to manage their loved one’s health. The Solutions for Caregivers program offers shared calendars, secure messaging and task management trackers to help ensure the care team schedule and manage care. Additionally, caregivers can seek assistance from case managers in person or by phone to help them create and follow a care plan for their loved ones.

In recognition of the growing role of family caregivers for elderly adults, many states – including New Jersey – recently passed the CARE Act. The law requires hospitals to record the name of a family caregiver when the patient is admitted for treatment, notify the caregiver when the patient is discharged, and provide in-person instructions for taking care of the patient.

As the elderly population in America continues to grow, a larger percentage of workers will likely become caregivers for their parents, which may cause increased stress among employees and reduce productivity. Employers should strongly consider providing programs that help reduce stress and support employees who are caregivers for their loved ones.