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.

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.

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.

US Family Health Plan Execs Attend 2016 Military Child of the Year Awards Gala

Every year, Operation Homefront holds a gala in honor of six extraordinary military children, one representing each branch of service – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Guard. The Military Child of the Year award recognizes children who “demonstrate resilience and strength of character, and thrive in the face of the challenges of military life.”

This year, Jeff Bloom, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of the US Family Health Plan program at St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, was honored to serve as a judge to help select the recipients of the 2016 award. The six Military Child of the Year award winners each received $10,000 and special recognition at the gala. Mr. Bloom noted, “The Military Child of the Year awards is a great way to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the children of our service men and women. The St. Vincent’s US Family Health Plan is honored to join Operation Homefront in sponsoring this great event.”

US Family Health Plan Director of Marketing/Sales Communications Rhonda Morris and St. Vincent's Executive Director and Senior Vice President Jeff Bloom pose with Madeleine Morlino, a future U.S. Air Force Academy cadet and 2016 Military Child of the Year award recipient from Moorestown, New Jersey.

US Family Health Plan Director of Marketing/Sales Communications Rhonda Morris and St. Vincent’s Executive Director and Senior Vice President Jeff Bloom pose with Madeleine Morlino, a future U.S. Air Force Academy cadet and 2016 Military Child of the Year award recipient from Moorestown, New Jersey.

St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers operates the US Family Health Plan program for military families and retirees in parts of New York, including all of New York City, New Jersey, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and Western Connecticut.  The US Family Health Plan is a TRICARE Prime program offered by the Department of Defense that provides high quality health care to eligible beneficiaries.

Joining Mr. Bloom at the event was Jim Schweiter, Chief Executive Officer of the US Family Health Plan Alliance. “The achievements of the young people we saw tonight are truly extraordinary,” Schweiter said. “Just as impressive as their achievements is their spirit of giving back to military communities and helping others. They truly deserve these awards, and it is a privilege for the US Family Health Plan program to be associated with this event.”

Pictured above (from left): Operation Homefront President and CEO John I. Pray, Jr., Brig. Gen. USAF (Ret.), US Family Health Plan Director of Marketing/Sales & Communications Rhonda Morris, St. Vincent's Executive Director and Senior Vice President Jeff Bloom, and United States Marine Corps General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford

Pictured above (from left): Operation Homefront President and CEO John I. Pray, Jr., Brig. Gen. USAF (Ret.), US Family Health Plan Director of Marketing/Sales & Communications Rhonda Morris, St. Vincent’s Executive Director and Senior Vice President Jeff Bloom, and United States Marine Corps General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford

Study: Providing Quality Care for Military Families Requires Understanding Military Culture

A new study from the University at Buffalo, published in Military Behavioral Health, concludes 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.

The new findings underscore the critical importance of understanding how military service impacts care utilization—fundamentals that the US Family Health Plan provider organizations have standardized in their enduring tradition of serving nearly 150,000 military family members and veterans.

A unique quality identified in the research about this population is that military family members and veterans often “don’t complain about little things” – a phrase which is included in the subtitle of the final research report – and may feel unsupported and underappreciated by those providing them care. The University of Buffalo researchers found that veterans and military families often feel that health care providers minimize their concerns or do not communicate clearly with them.

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 leader in quality care for military families, retirees and other beneficiaries in the Military Health System for more than 30 years, systemically instilling the critical components of care 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.

By knowing who our patients are, understanding their needs, and clearly communicating their care and treatment options, the US Family Health Plan provider organizations effectively care for chronic conditions, reduce emergency room visits and achieve better health and wellness outcomes. Our beneficiaries get appointments when they need them, and they receive sustained and reliable access to care through a 24-hour nurse help line, in-home monitoring and other advanced approaches to care delivery. It’s no wonder that US Family Health Plan beneficiaries are among the most satisfied patients in the country.

US Family Health Plan—A Model of High Quality Care and High Patient Satisfaction

This week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a series of initiatives to strengthen the U.S. military’s employee benefits package to ensure that our military community members receive health and family benefits comparable to those found in the private sector. As the Department of Defense aims to provide high-quality health benefits, it should look to the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan as a model program that already leads the way in patient satisfaction, better health outcomes and cost effective health care.

The US Family Health Plan’s six regional nonprofit care providers are unique in TRICARE for their capitated care model and proactive approach to medicine focused on improved patient wellness, disease management and predictive modeling to ensure that the care received is the most appropriate to the patient’s medical condition. US Family Health Plan beneficiaries are among the country’s most satisfied patients with a 91.5-percent aggregate satisfaction rating, according to the 2015 Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) survey.

This rating, more than 25 percentage points higher than the national average for commercial health plans, is driven by a culture and value-based care model that helps patients live healthier lives and which, in turn, reduces the frequency of costly emergency room visits and inpatient care. As healthcare in the private sector becomes more innovative and patient-centric, the US Family Health Plan serves as a model for the Department of Defense in its pursuit of top-of-the-line care, higher patient satisfaction and cost effective care delivery.

Congress Learns about Military’s Only Capitated Health Care Model

Members of Congress have been looking for solutions to curb the rising cost of military healthcare, and on Nov. 3 representatives of US Family Health Plan briefed congressional officials about key features of the only fixed price, value-based capitated care program in the Military Health System.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduces US Family Health Plan executives Linda Marzano (left) and David Chicoine (right) at a Nov. 3 Capitol Hill briefing on population health management.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduces US Family Health Plan executives Linda Marzano (left) and David Chicoine (right) at a Nov. 3 Capitol Hill briefing on population health management.

“The US Family Health Plan is the alternative model of care that the country is striving for,” said Linda Marzano, chair of the US Family Health Plan Alliance’s board of directors and CEO of Pacific Medical Centers, located in Seattle. “We have high quality, high patient satisfaction and a lower cost of care. We are achieving what the entire country is trying to move toward.”

Patient-Centered Healthcare Leads to Member Satisfaction

Marzano’s remarks on Capitol Hill come after the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) survey confirmed that US Family Health Plan patients are some of the most satisfied in the country. The CAHPS report this year showed that the US Family Health Plan’s aggregate member satisfaction rating in 2014 was 91.5 percent—more than 25 points higher on a 100-point scale than the national average for commercial health plans.

(Left to right) US Family Health Plan executives Linda Marzano (Pacific Medical Centers), David Chicoine (Brighton Marine Health Center) and David Howes (Martin’s Point Healthcare) discuss the high-quality, patient-centered healthcare that has been provided to military families for more than 30 years.

(Left to right) US Family Health Plan executives Linda Marzano (Pacific Medical Centers), David Chicoine (Brighton Marine Health Center) and David Howes (Martin’s Point Healthcare) discuss the high-quality, patient-centered healthcare that has been provided to military families for more than 30 years.

The six designated provider organizations that make up the US Family Health Plan operate a capitated-care model in which they are reimbursed at a fixed rate for the cost all patient services, and they are at risk if the cost of care exceeds that rate. This arrangement incentivizes investment in population health and disease management programs that help people live healthier lives and avoid expensive episodes of inpatient care.

“Each year, we’ve been able to offer great care at an affordable cost,” explained Dr. David Howes, president and CEO of Martin’s Point HealthCare. “Because people enroll with us, we know the people for whom we are responsible. We establish their preventive care needs, risks and chronic diseases, so we can help them to optimize their care, minimize hospitalizations and complications and remain healthy for as long as possible.”

David Chicoine, senior vice president and plan CEO for Brighton Marine Health Center, explained that each US Family Health Plan enrollee has an assigned primary care provider to coordinate care based on population models, health screenings and the patient’s previous medical history.

“Delivering very patient-specific healthcare is critical to achieving the high patient outcomes that we do,” Chicoine said.

“The Level of Care is Extraordinary”

Two US Family Health Plan members, retired Navy Rear Adm. Bill Center and retired Air

US Family Health Plan members—retired Navy Rear Adm. Bill Center (second from right) and retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Michael Tedford (far right) explain why the US Family Health Plan is the best option for their families’ healthcare.

US Family Health Plan members—retired Navy Rear Adm. Bill Center (second from right) and retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Michael Tedford (far right) explain why the US Family Health Plan is the best option for their families’ healthcare.

Force Chief Master Sergeant Michael Tedford, explained why they chose the US Family Health Plan from among the TRICARE choices for health care. Tedford discussed how, after retiring from the U.S. Air Force, he and his family moved between various health providers before settling on the US Family Health Plan, and noted how the preventive care approach helped catch a significant illness at a very early stage.

“The plan’s focus on preventive care is high, and I think it’s really instituted in the culture of all the care providers,” Tedford explained. “It sort of mimics that old cliché—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I’ve had nothing but good things to say about [the US Family Health Plan], and I plan on staying in it until I’m kicked out.”

Rear Admiral Center, who served the U.S. Navy for 35 years, noted the high quality care and personal respect he and his wife receive through the US Family Health Plan at Pacific Medical Center, which he touted as a model for future of the Military Healthcare System.

“The quality of care we’ve received is extraordinary,” he said. “I’m grateful we have this plan, and if it were up to me, I would want a plan like this for all military retirees. Our medical benefit is the most important of all of our retirement benefits, and when I talk to other retirees I get the same sentiment, especially as we grow older. [The US Family Health Plan’s] model lends itself to a true partnership between the military and retiree healthcare providers, and I think a seamless partnership is really important as we go forward in the future.”

The Doctor Will See You Now

When you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to hear is “Sorry, we have no appointments available until…” That’s why the US Family Health Plan makes it a priority to connect members with a doctor as soon as possible, in most cases that same day.

The US Family Health Plan participating organizations have developed programs that make it easier for military families we serve to access their healthcare—like a 24-hour tele-health line or the prescription delivery service that brings the pharmacy to the doorstep.

According to the 2015 Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) Survey, 91.4 percent of our beneficiaries were able to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as they needed, compared to the national average of 83.1 percent.

Robin Crane, a US Family Health Plan member with six children, loves being a part of our Johns Hopkins network. According to Robin, “When we’ve needed our children to be seen—numerous times—they’ve bent over backwards to get them in.”

The non-profit organizations providing care under the US Family Health Plan program are among the most highly-rated health plans in the nation for quality of care and overall patient satisfaction.