Frank G. Willetto, an 84-year-old Navajo Code Talker, renders honors during the playing of the national anthem at a ceremony commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., Feb. 19, 2010. In February 1945 the United States launched its first assault against the Japanese at Iwo Jima, resulting in some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

US Family Health Plan Alliance Celebrates Veterans Today and Throughout the Year

Veterans Day offers an opportunity to say thank you to those who have served in the United States military in defense of freedom and democracy.  The six US Family Health Plan health care systems participate in events throughout the year to celebrate and honor our veterans.

For example, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Center, participated in the annual “Vets Rock” event at Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut for the second year in a row. This event supports the nonprofit organization, Til Duty is Done, and includes a career fair and professional sessions for service members, veterans and military spouses. The event is capped off with a concert that this year featured host Tony Orlando and musical performances by Drop Kick Murphys, Godsmack and Madison Rising.

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“This is personal for me,” stated Maria Green, a retired Army Sergeant First Class and St. Vincent’s US Family Health Plan staff member. “Since retiring, I have devoted my second career to serving the military community.  Being a retired service member, I know first-hand the needs of veterans.  I do my best to provide valuable information on available resources to my fellow veterans.  This event in particular covers the full spectrum of resources from employment opportunities to health-related information and individual well-being seminars—and a dynamic closing concert to boot!”

For more than ten years, St. Vincent’s has also hosted “Breakfast with a Hero” to honor members who serve or have served our nation and which provides an opportunity for US Family Health Plan members to share stories with staff and friends over breakfast.

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“We look forward to this day,” said Debbie Sorrentino, practice manager at the Fort Wadsworth Family Health Center.  “Everyone gets involved in setting the stage for this day. Our staff starts decorating two weeks prior to Veterans Day.  This year, we created a flier to remind patients to come by and celebrate with us.  The word spreads quickly, and our patients schedule their routine appointments on this day to participate in the festivities as they check in on their health.”

Another US Family Health Plan organization, Christus Health, participates in the “Houston Salutes American Heroes” event with the City of Houston, a celebration that features a job and resource fair, a recognition ceremony honoring local heroes, and a parade of heroes. This year, Christus Health will provide health screenings and flu shots to more than 1,000 veterans and those in need, hosting games and other interactive events throughout the day.

These kinds of events allow the organizations that participate in the US Family Health Plan program to give back, in a small way, to those who have given so much to our great nation.  In honor of all who have served, the US Family Health Plan organizations express their sincere and enduring gratitude.

 

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Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps from the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan Alliance wishes the brave men and women of the United States Marine Corps a Happy Birthday today as it celebrates 241 years of service to our country.

The Alliance thanks all current, former and retired Marines for their service to the nation and for protecting our freedom.  While we can never fully repay their service and sacrifice, we want all in the Marine Corps family to know of our gratitude.

The member organizations of the US Family Health Plan Alliance look forward to many more years of providing care to our nation’s finest and their families.

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Happy Birthday to the US Navy and Air Force from the US Family Health Plan

The US Family Health Plan Alliance extends Happy Birthday wishes to two branches of our nation’s armed forces.

The Alliance salutes both the U.S. Navy, which celebrates its 241st birthday today, and the U.S. Air Force, which celebrated its 69th birthday on September 18.

Our country owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have served in both the Navy and Air Force throughout the years. We’re privileged to enjoy trusted relationships with many retirees and family members of active duty service members from these branches and are honored to be charged with their health care.

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Back to School: US Family Health Plan Kickstarts a Productive and Healthy School Year

The end of summer brings the excitement of the beginning of another school year for children (and parents) across the country. The US Family Health Plan takes pride in keeping its youngest members – the children of military families across the country – healthy so they can have a productive, stimulating and educational school year.

In this spirit, one US Family Health Plan, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, produced a list of helpful back-to-school preparation tips. Saint Vincent partnered with Operation Homefront on a series of Back to School Brigade events across Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania to provide more than 2,500 military families with book bags loaded with school supplies.
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Parents and students pick through school supplies at Back to School Brigade events
sponsored by US Family Health Plan provider, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers.
(Click on article to view photo slideshow.)

In addition to having the right supplies for school, it is even more important for children to have the right medical care when they need it. Here are some useful health tips to keep in mind for your children:

  • Eat Right: Give your children a healthy edge with the right nutritional approach, including these dietary recommendations from Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers.
  • Stay Focused: Mental health and proper sleep habits are just as important as a proper diet. US Family Health Plan member Johns Hopkins HealthCare covers these areas and more in its Back-to-School Guide for Parents.
  • Eye Exams: It can be hard for children to learn well if they struggle to see the chalkboard. Ask your primary care physician about scheduling an eye exam for your child.
  • Annual Physical: Whether your children play sports or not, we recommend an annual physical to survey their general health and to ensure they are on track for continued healthy growth and development.
  • Vaccinations: Confirm with your primary care physician that your children’s vaccines are up to date and in alignment with school requirements.

Managing care throughout the school year can be hectic for parents. That’s why all US Family Health Plans are committed to making healthcare as easy as possible for our nation’s military families.

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Patriot Day Message from the US Family Health Plan Alliance

As the nation reflects on the anniversary of the horrific September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the thoughts and prayers of US Family Health Plan Alliance and its member organizations are once again with all those who lost loved ones on that tragic morning. We remember the names, faces and lives of the men, women and children who were killed.

We invite you to join us in remembering 9/11 and all that this day means for our great country. It is important that all Americans remember the victims and first responders who died that day and pray for the families and friends that they left behind.

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Freedom and Fireworks Fly at 2016 US Family Health Plan Freedom Over Texas Festival

Earlier this month, US Family Health Plan Alliance member organizations celebrated Independence Day by participating in patriotic events across the country. In Houston, Christus Health proudly served as title sponsor of the Freedom Over Texas Festival, an annual Fourth of July event that draws more than 50,000 people from across the state and region.[layerslider id=”7″]

Christus Health, part of TRICARE’s US Family Health Plan program, serves members in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Overall, the US Family Health Plan program provides care to nearly 150,000 military family members and retirees across the country.

This year, the Freedom Over Texas Festival featured fireworks displays and musical performances by country music superstars Darius Rucker and the Eli Young Band. The day also included a historic flyover by two Vietnam War-era helicopters, flown by two veterans who had been shot down on July 4, 1971.

Alongside the festival events, Christus Health worked with the Houston Dynamo, the local Major League Soccer franchise, to host Military Appreciation Night on Saturday, July 2. This partnership is an extension of Christus Health’s relationship with the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, which helps Houston-area kids who might normally lack the resources to play soccer.

“We were so grateful to be a part of this event that gives back to the city of Houston and surrounding communities in a way that highlights the sacrifices of our armed services,” said Anita Leal, Executive Director of the Christus Health US Family Health Plan.

For more information visit www.freedomovertexas.org.

Dan and Sandy Aronhalt pose in front of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, in which Dan served for half of his 20-year military career.

USFHP Member Series: From Marine One to Brighton Marine

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.

Still Newlyweds: Dan and Sandy Aronhalt were married at an “I Do” barbeque at their Pawtucket home last summer.

Still Newlyweds: Dan and Sandy Aronhalt were married at an “I Do” barbeque at their Pawtucket home last summer.

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.

US Family Health Plan Alliance CEO Jim Schweiter Discusses Military Health Care Reform

Jim Schweiter, US Family Health Plan CEO

Jim Schweiter

In a recent article for the National Military Family Association (NMFA), US Family Health Plan Alliance CEO Jim Schweiter addressed the series of proposed reforms to the Military Health System that are under consideration as part of the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

In his piece, Schweiter highlights a recent study from the University at Buffalo that emphasized the importance of health care providers who serve our military community having a full understanding of military culture. Further, he urges Congress to preserve those elements of the current system, including TRICARE Prime’s US Family Health Plan program, which have been shown over time to work well, provide high quality care, and achieve better health outcomes and high beneficiary satisfaction.

 

A recent study from the University at Buffalo and published in the journal Military Behavioral Health concluded that health care provider networks that serve veterans and families in the military community need to have a fundamental understanding of military culture in order to provide effective care and improve patients’ health outcomes. This kind of understanding of the military community and culture can only be acquired by working with the military and serving the community and its people over time.  

The findings underscore the critical importance of understanding how military service impacts care utilization—fundamentals that the US Family Health Plan provider organizations have developed and refined through more than 30 years of serving nearly 150,000 military family members.

The US Family Health Plan view is that service members and their families deserve the greatest respect for their service, and also the highest-quality health care. The US Family Health Plan has been a long time leader in quality care for military families, retirees and other beneficiaries in the Military Health System, systemically providing the critical components of health care that is tailored to military families as outlined in the study’s findings:

  • An in-depth knowledge of military culture, values and ideals;
  • An understanding of the stressors of military life and post-service adjustment;
  • Recognition that a person’s military service might influence his or her care utilization habits;
  • Avoidance of individual barriers to a patient-provider relationship.

To read Schweiter’s full commentary for the National Military Family Association, click here.

Happy Independence Day from the US Family Health Plan Alliance

Independence Day Message from the US Family Health Plan Alliance

On this Fourth of July, the US Family Health Plan Alliance celebrates the independence of our great nation and pays tribute to all our men and women in uniform, retirees and military family members. The selfless service and sacrifices of these brave men, women and families must always be appreciated and honored, and the Fourth of July is a fitting occasion to reflect upon and commemorate all they do to keep America free and secure.

For more than 30 years, the member organizations of the US Family Health Plan Alliance have been proud to deliver high-quality healthcare to military families and retirees. In honor of our members, we are celebrating Independence Day through various events. One of our member organizations, Christus Health, is proud to sponsor again this year the annual Freedom Over Texas festival, the City of Houston’s signature annual patriotic celebration.

The US Family Health Plan is grateful for the privilege of providing high-quality healthcare to our uniformed services family members and retirees, and we wish everyone a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.

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USFHP Member Series: The Moons MOVE! into Action

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.

Ed and Mary Jo Moon, before and after their impressive initial weight loss.

Ed and Mary Jo Moon, before their weight loss journey began, and after. Image Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins.

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.”

Ed and Mary Jo share a healthy snack with MOVE! coach Rachelle Cannon (center).

Ed and Mary Jo share a healthy snack with MOVE! coach Rachelle Cannon (center).  Image Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins.

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.