Sponsor Spotlight: Amy Swanson, UnitedHealthcare

Photo of Amy Swanson

Organizations that sponsor the Annual Gathering at the Gold or Platinum levels receive a featured spotlight here, with a snippet appearing in a Quarterly Connections. This quarter, we shine a spotlight on Amy Swanson, Vice President of Marketing, Advocacy and Member Experience at UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Ohio.

Describe your current work addressing health and wellness needs of Appalachian areas.

In addition to serving people throughout the Appalachian region through Medicare and employer-sponsored health plans, UnitedHealthcare currently serves people eligible for Medicaid in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

Like members of Appalachia Funders Network, we know socioeconomic and health challenges are often connected. This is why at UnitedHealthcare, we take a whole-person approach to health care – which means we seek to address physical health, behavioral health and social needs, such as access to healthy food, housing and transportation. And, of course, we don’t do this alone. We work with the people we serve, family members and care givers, care providers and community partners to address local health care needs with local solutions.

For example, in Ohio and other states, we are working with community partners to help connect people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to available housing resources. We’ve partnered with the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO) for the last three years and recently funded research to examine and address housing gaps for transitional youth. Stable, affordable housing helps people live healthier lives.

The health and wellness of pregnant women and babies is a priority for us. Our Healthy First Steps and Baby Blocks program provides special care management and wrap-around services to moms and babies. We help them do everything from scheduling a doctor visit to in-person health and wellness coaching, and provide incentives for keeping appointments.

But, it is our field-based care management – our community health workers and nurses in the field – that is more powerful than anything else in connecting moms to the care they need. We recently partnered with March of Dimes to bring their Supportive Pregnancy Care program to Ohio. The program partners with care providers in the community to host centering programs at physician offices. Centering brings pregnant women together to participate in face-to-face activities, receive health and wellness materials and most importantly, connect with other local women. Connections with other women are a critical support resource, and our goal is to promote that engagement and couple it with a physician visit. In Ohio and Tennessee, these programs have been powerful in our ability to improve the health of moms and babies.

What do you want other funders to know about UnitedHealthcare and opportunities to work together towards aligned interests?

As funders, it’s important to ask about available resources that people could use such as UnitedHealthcare’s care management services, our community health care model, and tools like Healthify, which connects people to social support resources in real time and On My Way, which helps teenagers and young adults transition to self-sufficient living.

Over the past year, we have been working with the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and other partners to care for nearly 30,000 foster and youth receiving adoptive assistance. In Appalachian areas in Ohio, we’ve worked closely with the public children’s services agencies. Sadly, the number of children in custody, which had been on a decline, is now increasing and it’s related to the opioid crisis.

Tackling the opioid crisis will take all of us including care providers, government agencies, and community-based organizations, and it is an area where we should align resources and work together. Currently, we are educating providers and patients on appropriate use of opioids and alternatives to pain medications. We are performing data and analytical work that helps us determine where to focus prevention and treatment so that we, and the entire community, can address the social, economic and human cost associated with opioids. We invested in the Ohio Start Program, which is intervention program that will provide intensive trauma counseling for children and drug treatment for parents of children in Appalachian Ohio. The goal is reunification, but the path to reunification can be long if the parent or care giver is unable to get the treatment they need. This program is designed to shorten the time it takes to get treatment by connecting child services agencies with treatment care providers in the community.

Many of the issues important to the Appalachia Funders Network are also issues we care deeply about. We need to be working together more, and I invite Network members to contact us. Let’s sit down and talk about your agenda and the problems you’re trying to solve. For example, I know the Network has been working to address access to oral health, and that’s something we are interested in as well. Research shows good oral health is crucial to good overall health. Our door is always open to discuss ways that we can help people live healthier lives.

Describe how UnitedHealthcare works across sectors and in communities to solve entrenched challenges.

UnitedHealthcare care managers and provider partners are using a tool called Healthify to connect people in need to community social support resources and information in real time. We’ve seen a lot of success as a result of having this tool in the hands of community health workers, nurses, and others out in the field interacting with the people we serve. Instead of sifting through directories, we’re using technology and innovation to bring the information to their fingertips. It goes beyond a Google search because it validates the resources. It also has a referral feature that allows staff and care providers to connect people to available resources.

In Muskingum, Guernsey, Coshocton, and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio, we are connecting health care providers with children’s services agencies to help them schedule children for health screenings. Guidelines require children see a health care provider within five days of being taken into custody and a second visit within 30 days. Under the previous care delivery model, case workers were having trouble accessing care within this timeframe. When we welcomed this population into managed care, UnitedHealthcare worked with our care providers to guarantee a visit within 72 hours with several of our large care providers in rural areas.

We also serve people transitioning from prison back in to the community. This population has complex needs that require working across sectors including the court systems, job training, physical health and behavioral health systems, and community-based service organizations.

What does UHC hope to learn about Appalachia Funders Network?

We would appreciate the opportunity to learn about your policy and program agendas and explore how we can work together to improve the health and quality of life in Appalachian communities. In addition, I would be thrilled if Network members thought of managed care as a stakeholder in their conversations, and would consider asking grantees to articulate how they are leveraging existing Medicaid benefits through managed care in their programming. Working together, we can better serve the people in need of support.