In 2018, Johns Hopkins US Family Health Plan member Mary Jones received frightening counsel from her doctor: If she didn’t lose weight, she would die. Mary, a diabetes patient, had been trying unsuccessfully to lose weight on her own for years. A few days after receiving this scary news, Jones received a call from Courtney Nelson, a Johns Hopkins US Family Health Plan health coach. Jones saw Nelson’s call as the answer to her prayers. “She was an angel that God sent to help me out,” said Jones, who is now much healthier at nearly 50 pounds lighter than when she received that first phone call.
Nearly 40 years after its creation in 1981, the US Family Health Plan is still providing high-quality health care to some of its original members.
Martin’s Point Health Care in Maine – one of the six US Family Health Plan regional member organizations – hosted a recent seminar to educate members about plan benefits, pharmacy options, health coverage and the latest in military health care. Excitingly, the seminar also reunited some of the inaugural members who have received health care through the plan since its founding.
The St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers US Family Health Plan program in New York recently celebrated the 100th birthday of one of its members—Major (Ret.) Joe Sciacca, a U.S. Army veteran and contemporary renaissance man who enjoyed an eclectic career following his military service.
Sciacca, a Staten Island native, has been a member of the St. Vincent’s US Family Health Plan program for 37 years since enrolling in 1981. He was born in Manhattan and was drafted into the Army in June 1941, serving until his separation as a first lieutenant in 1946. Sciacca continued to serve another quarter-century in the Army Reserve before retiring as a major.
While in the service, Sciacca was assigned to an artillery unit. He specialized in spotting enemy fire. During World War II, he served in various locations across the U.S. and was close to being deployed to the African theater when the war ended.
Mr. Sciacca attended Fordham Law School, and his illustrious post-military career included working for Buitoni Foods for 42 years and being appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve as Deputy Commissioner of Boxing for the New York Athletic Commission. In that position, he played an important role in organizing the “Fight of the Century” between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971 at Madison Square Garden.
In celebration of Joe’s 100th birthday, the St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers US Family Health Plan program wishes to thank him for his many years of service to our country and for his successful post-military career.
Joe Sciacca is among nearly 150,000 US Family Health Plan members nationwide who enjoy access to quality healthcare with top-rated patient satisfaction through six regional member organizations offering the TRICARE Prime benefit. The US Family Health Plan administered by Saint Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers has provided care to the military community for more than 30 years and serves active-duty family members, as well as retirees and their family members who live in parts of New York, including New York City, New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and western Connecticut.
To learn more about the US Family Health Plan, explore the rest of our website.
The US Family Health Plan thanks writer Gregory Giaconelli, who contributed the “Spotlight” column on Joe Sciacca for the Summer 2017 edition of FAM Magazine.
U.S. Army Family Joins US Family Health Plan
Just in Time for a Planned Home Birth
After more than a decade of life as a U.S. Army family, Faith and Aris Comeaux know a thing or two about process and planning.
In 2005, Faith – an Army enlistee from Nebraska – met her future husband, Aris, in Alabama at flight school. They were married, and both eventually became pilots. Faith completed ROTC, became an officer and went on to fly Apache helicopters, while Aris graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before flying Kiowa choppers. Their service to the Army kept them on the go as they moved to Alaska, back to Alabama, then to California and finally to New York.
It was after living in New York for a year that the Comeauxs – by then a family of six – were preparing to welcome baby number five. Faith, having given birth four times before, knew she wanted this one to happen at home and began making preparations.
“We had one baby that came within an hour, and we had him at home, because we didn’t make it to the hospital. Not by choice, you know. The next one I had at the hospital, so I wanted to do the next one as a home birth intentionally, plan it and set it all up,” she says. “I’ve had beautiful babies, beautiful pregnancies and deliveries and had no issues. The midwife was able to meet with me even with only a month and a half left, and she was comfortable doing it because everything lined up, and it was a safe environment for me and the baby.”
Despite her plans, as her due date approached, Faith’s planned home birth was in flux after she encountered procedural hurdles with her private insurance provider and her preferred hospital.
“It should have been simple, and it became this whole thing,” Comeaux recalls. “I was going to have a home birth one way or the other. Someone said try US Family Health Plan, and so at that point, instead of continuing to fight the hospital to get what my insurance covered, I did call them. I was already over my due date, and the clock was ticking!”
Faith spoke with Rhonda Morris, US Family Health Plan director with St. Vincent Catholic Medical Health Centers – a US Family Health Plan member organization in New York – who worked quickly to onboard Faith and her children as US Family Health Plan members, complete with the benefits of a safe, coordinated home birth.
“I joined US Family Health Plan two days before the baby came,” Comeaux says. “Everything went smoothly. Rhonda was able to get everything from the doctor and made my midwife a primary care provider. Then she had to work on transferring me over.”
Without a hitch, the Comeauxs were welcomed into the US Family Health Plan family. The Comeauxs, in turn, welcomed baby Asaph into their family. Faith says she is glad the US Family Health Plan supports home birth and midwifery, which she feels is a “lost art.”
“Everyone was very supportive, very encouraging,” she says. “They were willing to go above and beyond to meet my needs as the patient and set forth what would be best for me in my situation.”
The Comeauxs have since left New York, as Aris is in Korea for a year-long unaccompanied assignment. Faith has moved with the couple’s five children – three boys and two girls – to Hawaii. There they eagerly await Aris’ return and baby number six, a boy due in March. Ever the planner, Faith will again have a home birth.
“Of course I’m pregnant now, and I looked up US Family Health Plan to see if it was offered here! It would make my life a whole lot easier if it was,” she says. “I can’t stress it enough: it was God working through people that had willing hearts. It was just amazing. They were able to care about the patient more than anything else. I could have been just a number, and they could have said, ‘Nope you’re past due. We can’t help you.’ But they did the exact opposite. That was two years ago and still gives me goosebumps, to be honest.”
Former Marine One “Trip Leader” Now Focused on Family’s Health and Happiness in New England
When retired Gunnery Sgt. Dan Aronhalt reflects on his 20 years in the military, he remembers the familiar tune of Lynn Anderson’s country song, “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” used notably in the U.S. Marine Corps’ recruiting commercials.
Aronhalt – a US Family Health Plan member now living in Pawtucket, Rhode Island – recounts how an intervention of fate dramatically reshaped his future. Fresh out of high school, Aronhalt knew he didn’t want to go to college, opting instead to join the military and serve his country. But after unsuccessfully trying to meet with a U.S. Navy recruiter in Pawtucket, he instead ended up in front of a recruiter for the Marine Corps.
This encounter launched Aronhalt’s career in the Marines, half of which he spent overseeing the fleet of Marine Corps helicopters that includes Marine One, the call sign for whichever Marine vehicle transports the president of the United States. Aronhalt’s service on Marine One spanned nearly 10 years and the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. As designated “trip leader,” Aronhalt worked in maintenance control, overseeing a crew of 125 personnel as they made necessary repairs to all Marine One aircraft.
“It’s a good feeling to say I’ve done this because not many people have the opportunity to do what I did. Working on a presidential aircraft was an honor, and I’m glad I did it for as many years as I did,” Aronhalt says. “I’ve shared my experience with many people, and it kind of makes them go, ‘wow.’”
Though Aronhalt no longer spends his time in the company of U.S. presidents, the good feelings continue as he and his wife, Sandy, enjoy the ease of managing their healthcare through US Family Health Plan of Southern New England through Brighton Marine Health Center. The Aronhalts were married last summer and joined US Family Health Plan in January.
Describing himself as being in “fairly good health,” Aronhalt has never had a problem accessing care when he needs it. He rates the plan a “10” and said he and his wife could not be more satisfied with the quality care they receive, especially the prescription service and 24-hour telehealth line.
“The way that US Family Health Plan handles prescriptions is excellent,” Aronhalt says. “The Brighton Marine facility takes care of all my prescriptions, and they do a fantastic job. The costs are less than I was paying during active duty, and they cover even more. The people are helpful, and everything works well because they’ve made it so easy. If you call the 24-hour line, you’ll likely get in to see a doctor that day.”
Aronhalt says military service is an experience anyone would benefit from in gaining knowledge and training. And, while the military never promised him a rose garden, now retired, he appreciates the ease of care management he and his wife enjoy through US Family Health Plan.
Couple sheds 170 pounds in Johns Hopkins US Family Health Plan Weight Loss Program
When retired U.S. Navy Chief Ed Moon and his wife Mary Jo attended their first Johns Hopkins US Family Health Plan-sponsored MOVE! class in September 2014, they had no idea their decision to take control of their health would lead to more than 150 pounds of collective weight loss and a step toward healthy living.
Ed Moon, a Navy veteran with 20 years of service, has been a US Family Health Plan member since 2011. He had visited the doctor multiple times after his weight had climbed to 310 pounds and was experiencing back and joint pain, sleep apnea and difficulty walking. Mary Jo Moon avoided the doctor altogether after her weight reached 258 pounds, though she feared the possibility of a stroke, a heart attack or developing diabetes. But she knew her family had to make a change.
Fortuitously, the couple received a brochure in the mail advertising MOVE!, a weight management program designed by the Veterans Affairs National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to improve veterans’ health nationwide.
The program features weekly classes and recommends a variety of individualized behavioral and lifestyle changes so participants can lose weight and keep it off. What the Moons did not realize at that time was that, as at-risk US Family Health Plan members, they had been specifically profiled for the program.
“When we first received the brochure, we didn’t know that this amazing program would allow us to work toward our goals and establish a routine to lose weight and exercise,” Ed Moon says.
On Sept. 4, 2014, the Moons attended their first class and met Rachelle Cannon, M.S., C.W.H.C, a U.S. Family Health Plan health coach and their future weight loss mentor.
“The importance of the MOVE! Program is to encourage participants to express their ideas, to explore evidence-based health practices that the educator shares from the curriculum, to consider new ways of approaching and/or viewing nutrition, exercise, and the power of the mind, to ask questions, and most importantly, to meet other people who experience similar challenges,” Cannon says.
Cannon, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard, brought a “perky” energy to the program that then Moons said was crucial to their weight loss journey. Since the Moons’ first MOVE! class, they have lost a combined total of more than 170 pounds and have kept it off.
“Rachelle was a catalyst,” Mary Jo Moon says. “Her advice and suggestions were the foundation on which we built our food and exercise habits. The program introduced us to the concept of food tracking and using a pedometer to help set exercise goals and track success. My favorite part was the 80-20 rule of eating: eat well 80 percent of the time and forgive yourself for the 20 percent you don’t.”
In addition to eating well, the Moons have surprised even themselves by developing a fondness for walking and running. They ran their first 5K on New Year’s Day 2015 and have since done a 4-mile walk or run each weekend, with Mary Jo tacking on a monthly 5k-run. This was a dramatic improvement from the days before they joined the MOVE! program, when on a trip to Virginia Beach, they struggled to navigate the boardwalk.
“From our hotel we could see the King Neptune statue,” Ed Moon recalls. “I thought it was really close, but when we started walking there, it was so grueling that we almost had to take a taxi back. A year later we walked the entire length of the boardwalk and waved at Neptune as we went by. And we’re going to continue to see how far we can go each time we visit. I haven’t had to pay for a single cab yet.”
The Moons attribute their achievements on the boardwalk and on the scale to the valued, specialized care they receive through Johns Hopkins US Family Health Plan—a plan on which they’ve come to rely.
“I would be crushed if US Family Health Plan were not in the military healthcare system. This has been great for us and for our health,” Ed Moon says. “I’m getting ready to retire. We’re considering staying in this area, because of the care. There are cheaper and maybe more comfortable places to live, but I would like to stay in the coverage area of the US Family Health Plan.”
US Family Health Plan provides the TRICARE Prime benefit through six non-profit regional health care provider organizations that serve military families and retirees with quality coordinated care and best-in-class patient satisfaction.