Saturday, April 22, 2006

PacifiCare Supports Swim-a-thon Fund Raiser

LOS ANGELES – March 29, 2006 – The University of Southern California ’s (USC) Swim With Mike announced that PacifiCare, a UnitedHealthcare Company, has been named the Official Healthcare Partner for the annual swim-a-thon fund-raiser. Benefiting the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, Swim With Mike ( www.swimwithmike.org) will take place Saturday, April 8, 2006 , from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at USC McDonald’s Swim Stadium.
In addition, PacifiCare donated $8,000 in support of Swim With Mike’s efforts to provide tuition and financial assistance toward housing and books to physically challenged student athletes.

In order to qualify for a scholarship, applicants must have suffered an illness or injury that resulted in a physical disability that substantially limits major life activity; have participated in organized high school or college athletics prior to the illness or injury; meet admissions requirements of the selected university, and maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled. The Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund boasts an impressive recipient and alumni list, ranging in age from 18 to 38, pursuing careers from cinematography to business, medicine and law.

Athletes have represented 16 different sports on levels ranging from high school junior varsity to NCAA Division 1. “PacifiCare is proud to be named Swim With Mike’s Official Healthcare Partner for the second year,” said James Frey, CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Pacific Region. “We congratulate this year’s scholarship winners for overcoming life’s challenges and pursuing their dreams.” Celebrating its 26th year, Swim With Mike has raised $6 million for 55 Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarships for students who have overcome life-challenging accidents or illnesses.

The fund is the only one of its kind allowing students to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees at USC and, beginning three years ago, other college campuses. Swim With Mike began as a fund-raiser, “Swim For Mike,” to purchase a specially equipped van for three-time All-American USC swimmer, Mike Nyeholt, who became paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1981. At Nyeholt’s suggestion, the excess monies raised that year were used to aid other athletes overcome paralyzing or physically disabling injuries or illnesses, and return to school.

With the help of Nyeholt’s teammate and now USC Associate Athletic Director Ron Orr, “Swim With Mike” was born the following year when Nyeholt returned to swim laps. “We are fortunate to have PacifiCare with us to share our commitment in helping our scholarship recipients pursue their education,” said Orr. “The students of the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship are our inspiration, and we thank PacifiCare for helping us again make Swim With Mike a success.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Medica Launches New Online Health Management Tool

Medica Launches myHealthManagerSM Online Health Management Tool Rewards healthy behavior; Designed to help hold down health care costs.

Minnetonka, Minn. April 18, 2006 -- Because healthy workers are more productive and less costly to insure, employers are looking for ways to engage employees in improving their quality of life. Consumers, meanwhile, are looking for a simple approach to looking and feeling better.

Medica is addressing both concerns with the launch of myHealthManager, a new online health management center that provides cash rewards to members who enroll and use the resource. myHealthManager features easy-to-use tools that help people achieve results quickly and easily. It connects to Medica resources like online health risk assessments and challenges to improve heart health, lose weight and manage stress.

Fitness, nutrition, healthy living and medical information resources keep members informed, while preventive care reminders and personalized care “To Dos” help them stay on track.Experience shows that wellness programs help reduce health care costs. For example, one company using a program similar to the one being offered by Medica saw a reduction in the percentage of employees with five or more risk factors from 61.3 percent to 20.6 percent. The results, which occurred over a three-year period, include declines in the percentage of employees with high blood pressure (20 percent to 10.1 percent) and high blood sugar levels (14 percent to 11 percent).

Studies have identified a direct correlation between the number of health risk factors present and health care costs. Based on estimates from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, the company, which has 6,000 employees, could expect annual savings on the treatment of high blood pressure and high blood sugar of just over $3 million.myHealthManager is provided at no additional charge for all of Medica’s fully insured groups. Self-insured groups can take advantage of myHealthManager for a small additional fee.

Eligible Medica members can use myHealthManager at no cost. Because change can be difficult, myHealthManager offers support, encouragement and tangible incentives. Each quarter, the program offers fun, new activities centered on health and wellness. As a reward for participation in online and offline activities, members earn wellness credits that can be redeemed for gift cards that can be used like cash at online and offline merchants.“We are delighted to make myHealthManager available to our employer groups and members,” said Christine Finn, vice president of strategic accounts. “Our customers are continually looking for ways to engage their employees in managing and improving their health while providing overall health care cost savings. myHealthManager does this by providing easy, fun ways to help people look better and feel better.”

Medica is a 1.3 million-member health insurance company headquartered in Minneapolis and active in the Upper Midwest. The non-profit company provides health care coverage in the employer, individual, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Part D markets in Minnesota and a growing number of counties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Medica also offers national network coverage to employers who also have employees outside the Medica regional network.Medica has the highest accreditation status, Excellent, from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA®) for its Minnesota and North Dakota Medicaid HMO plans and commercial health plans. Medica’s vision is to become the community’s health plan of choice, trusted for its integrity, respected for its service, and admired for its commitment to innovation and efficiency.

Monday, April 17, 2006

BCBS Testimony Regarding IT Potential to Improve Health Care

Blue Cross And Blue Shield Association Testimony Highlights Potential For IT To Improve Healthcare, Warns Against Hasty Adoption Of ICD-10 Coding

(WASHINGTON – April 6, 2006) – At a hearing today before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Joseph Smith, senior vice president and chief information officer of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, urged Congress to adopt a realistic timetable for a major shift in medical coding, moving systems from ICD-9 to ICD-10.

Smith testified at the hearing, which focused on health care information technology, on behalf of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). The bill Smith referenced, HR 4157, the Health Information Technology Promotion Act of 2005, calls for the major conversion of diagnostic and procedural codes that providers and insurers must use by 2009.

Systems would change from ICD-9 diagnosis codes, which include 13,000 codes, to ICD-10, which includes over 120,000 possible codes. “While supporting much of HR 4157, we strongly urge the committee to allow three additional years to switch to ICD-10,” said Smith. “More time is critical because extensive work is required before providers and payers can implement this complete coding overhaul.” Smith argued that an additional three years is necessary to make the change responsibly, without putting provider payments and patient care at risk. He noted that hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers will need time to acquire and learn to use the technology necessary to determine which of the 120,000 codes is appropriate.

In addition, Smith’s testimony cautioned against the current timetable’s layering multiple simultaneous system changes; in this case coupling a conversion to ICD-10 with Medicare’s planned consolidation from 50 contractors to 15. Smith stated that to avoid unnecessary risk, Medicare contractor consolidation must take place before contractors can shift to ICD-10.
Smith noted that BCBSA strongly supports the provisions in the bill calling for the creation of interoperable standards. In addition, Smith’s testimony explained the lessons learned in creating an interoperable healthcare technology model in Arkansas, and highlighted the role Blue Plans across the country are taking in advancing health information technology.