Monday, September 24, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: Focus on wellness drives WellCare director

Somewhere between various stints at hospitals around the state, Dr. Traci Ferguson began to contemplate how best to help patients.

Ferguson, who joined WellCare in 2010 and now serves as WellCare's chief medical director for medical management, came to the realization that managed health care might help her have a larger impact.

"I saw that I was helping one-on-one but I was only helping as many people as I could see in that day," said Ferguson, who holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University, a doctor of medicine degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a master's degree in business administration from Howard University.

"Moving to WellCare, since we focus on the same members I took care of in the hospital — Medicaid, low income and sometimes those that didn't have insurance — I'm able to help with our policies. And because we're in so many different states, I'm helping so many more people."

The help comes in trying to assist WellCare members by promoting the importance of preventive health care. With a team of care managers and health coaches, WellCare's efforts go beyond encouraging doctor visits and aim to raise awareness.

The company even has a community assistance line (866-775-2192) to help anyone — not just members — connect to social services including financial, food, education and utility assistance, transportation, disability and homeless services, support groups and child care.

Sometimes basic needs supersede a focus on health.

In her role, Ferguson, 42, oversees much of the education and awareness effort, and the company maintains a specific focus on diabetes. She serves on the Tampa Bay Community Leadership Board of the American Diabetes Association, and earlier this month, the company announced its employees and the WellCare Community Foundation teamed to raise more than $110,000 to support the 2016 American Diabetes Association's Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes.

Ferguson said diabetes affects a number of WellCare members as well as its employees, family members and friends. The employees raised more than $75,000 of the total, no doubt because they were personally inspired.

Personal inspiration also drives Ferguson. In 2013, her brother died at age 35 of complications from Type 2 diabetes. She found frustration in efforts to help. Unable to work, he struggled with getting good insurance. Obese, he also struggled to change his eating and lifestyle.

It's not an uncommon story. More than 29 million Americans live with diabetes and 86 million live with prediabetes. As many as one in three U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050.

And it's preventable.

"At the end, my brother was finally at peace," Ferguson said. "But that doesn't need to happen. There are things that can be done and you need to do it together."

Of course, Ferguson recognizes that for many WellCare members — the company focuses primarily on Medicare and Medicaid populations — making the necessary changes proves difficult even when they have the will.

"It's always cheaper to go and buy these processed, high-sugar foods than to have access to vegetables and fruits," Ferguson said. "If you look at the places that have a dollar menu, if you have a limited amount of money, and that's what's in your neighborhood, that's where you're going to go. There's no fresh market in a lot of areas."

Helping WellCare members find success in eating healthier and exercising more spurs Ferguson each and every day. It even bleeds over into her personal life. She recently overheard her son lecturing friends about the amount of sugar in Gatorade.

With Thanksgiving over, Ferguson said it's important to bounce back from a big day of eating with a focus on portion control, eating more fruits and vegetables, and mixing in workouts. Even a post-meal walk can be of benefit.

"I talk to my team and I say, 'If you're able to talk to somebody whether it's just listening to them, pointing them in the right direction or just encouraging them, you've had a great day," Ferguson said.

Let's hope more great days lie ahead for everyone trying to get healthier. For those trying to help family members eat better and exercise more, don't call it nagging, call it love.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments
Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots wife, turns gun on himself with children in home

Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots wife, turns gun on himself with children in home

LAND O'LAKES -- A Hillsborough County deputy fatally shot his wife early Monday morning before turning the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.In an early-morning news conference, Pasco County ...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Building a wall against Red Tide; TGH records last heartbeats; Dungy goes into Ring of Honor

The Daystarter: Building a wall against Red Tide; TGH records last heartbeats; Dungy goes into Ring of Honor

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• We’ll have scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service. Highs today will be in the lower 90s.• As you head out for your morning commute, c...
Updated: 8 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: $1 billion Florida tax hike? Andrew Gillum proposes increasing state corporate tax

PolitiFact Florida: $1 billion Florida tax hike? Andrew Gillum proposes increasing state corporate tax

A TV attack ad portrays Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum as so "far out" that he is on another planet."Gillum wants to increase Florida taxes by a billion dollars. Disaster for the economy," says an ad by the Republican Governors Association showing Gi...
Published: 09/24/18

Hooper: Don’t trade progress for pennies. Reject Amendment 1

A lot of Tampa Bay city and county elected officials should be sounding the alarm about Amendment 1.The amendment, one of 12 voters will find on the November ballot, increases the maximum homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, but the devil is ...
Published: 09/24/18
The ‘Murphy Brown’ revival is re-entering a very different TV space. Can it succeed?

The ‘Murphy Brown’ revival is re-entering a very different TV space. Can it succeed?

In one of the first episodes of the rebooted Murphy Brown, the show’s title character, back at it after all these years, faces a quandary.Murphy, a celebrity TV journalist, is being pushed by network executives to conduct an interview. It’s a chance ...
Published: 09/24/18
Hillsborough asking why rescue captain stayed back as patient’s friends performed CPR

Hillsborough asking why rescue captain stayed back as patient’s friends performed CPR

TAMPA — It was almost 4 a.m. when the man’s friends found him unconscious in a Riverview home and called 911.His breath was shallow and he was turning blue. With the 911 call-taker giving instructions, his friends performed CPR and waited.Ten minutes...
Published: 09/24/18
Dear Penny: I spent everything ending a bad relationship. Can I treat myself?

Dear Penny: I spent everything ending a bad relationship. Can I treat myself?

Dear Penny, I just made one of the hardest decisions of my life and ended the relationship I had been in since my early 20s. After a decade in a bad relationship, I’m super excited to be single again. The problem is my wardrobe. Over the past few yea...
Published: 09/24/18
Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

TORONTO — Blake Snell doesn't look like he can be stopped.He pitched again for the Rays in Sunday's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays, he dominated again and he won again.That's both a major-league-leading and team-record-breaking 21st victory for...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

TAMPA – After Sunday morning, the Lightning sat five cuts away from having a 23-man roster to start the regular season.It cut its training camp roster by 27, leaving 28 players on the roster with the start of the regular season less than two we...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tiger Woods ends five-year win drought with Tour Championship title

Tiger Woods ends five-year win drought with Tour Championship title

Times wiresATLANTA — Tiger Woods, in his Sunday red shirt, both arms raised in victory on the 18th green.For so many years, the scene was familiar.This time, it was surreal."I can't believe I pulled this off," Woods said Sunday during the troph...
Updated: 7 hours ago