TAMPA, Fla., April 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) announced today the WellCare Community Foundation and the company's employees collectively contributed more than $35,000 to support the March of Dimes in its mission to help give all babies a healthy start in life by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
The WellCare Community Foundation will serve as a gold sponsor for the March of Dimes – Florida Chapter's signature fundraising event, March for Babies – Hillsborough County, which will be held April 23, 2016 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
More than 165 WellCare employees are signed up to participate in the walk and have raised more than $20,000 through various fundraising activities, including: employee-sponsored bake sales and bake-offs; casual "jeans days" passes; restaurant "spirit days"; coin buckets; a silent auction; and "A Day with the Tampa Bay Rays" with a portion of ticket sales donated.
Fighting prematurity in Florida Every year, approximately 380,000 babies, or 1 in 10, are born prematurely in the United States. Preterm birth, defined as babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy, is the leading cause of infant death. Premature babies are also at greater risk of neurological disorders and other health problems.
Florida earned a "C" grade for its 9.9 percent preterm rate, according to the 2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The city of Tampa lags behind, with a "D" score for its 10.9 percent rate, and the city of St. Petersburg with a "C" for its 10.1 preterm birth rate.
"Florida has made progress, but we still have a long way to go," said Dr. Karen Harris, March of Dimes Florida Chapter Program Services Committee Chair. "Every year, there are about 29,000 babies born too soon in Florida, and work must continue to bring that rate down. We are grateful to WellCare and its employees for their support and the work they are doing to help fight prematurity in Florida and across the country."
"Prematurity is a critical issue that affects everyone, including WellCare's Medicaid members in Florida and across the country," said Bill Keena, WellCare's vice president of integration solutions and volunteer board member for the March of Dimes. "That's why WellCare is proud to partner with the March of Dimes to improve the health of mothers and babies through education, prenatal care and other services to reduce the risk of premature birth and other poor birth outcomes in our local communities."
For one WellCare employee, it's personal Abby Salzer, senior corporate counsel with WellCare, spent months anticipating the birth of her second child Shoshana, or "Sosie" as her family calls her, who arrived nine weeks early. Instead of taking her newborn home, Salzer watched as she was rushed to the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Sosie weighed 4 lbs., 7 oz. She was breathing on her own but needed oxygen to maintain her saturation levels and to treat episodes of a slow heartbeat. She also received IV therapy to address apnea issues and phototherapy to treat jaundice. Fortunately, 35 days later, Sosie left the hospital a much healthier child, weighing just over 6 pounds.
"There's nothing scarier than fearing for the life of your child," said Salzer. "I am so thankful to the talented team of doctors and nurses who cared for Sosie in the NICU, and I am proud to work for WellCare and to help sponsor and support the March of Dimes in its efforts to help give babies like Sosie a healthy start in life."
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About WellCare Health Plans, Inc. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. WellCare serves approximately 3.8 million members nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2015. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.
About the WellCare Community Foundation The WellCare Community Foundation was established in 2010 and is a non-profit, private foundation. Its mission is to foster and promote the health, well-being and quality of life for the poor, distressed and other medically under-served populations – including those who are elderly, young and indigent – and the communities in which they live. The WellCare Community Foundation carries out this mission by supporting work that helps people live healthy, safe and productive lives, and by assisting groups with serious and neglected health needs. Underscoring this mission is the WellCare Community Foundation's goal to serve as a national resource that fosters an environment where there is a continuum of education, access and quality health care, all of which improve the overall health, well-being and quality of life of targeted beneficiaries.
About the March of Dimes The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. To participate in our annual signature fundraising event, visit marchforbabies.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit persistats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.