Reflecting on Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

By Ken Burdick

This month, two catastrophic hurricanes—Harvey and Irma—wreaked havoc on much of the Southeast, leading to dozens of deaths, billions of dollars in damages, and millions without power and needed resources.

The devastating impact of these storms was driven home by shocking images of flooded hospitals, nursing homes and neighborhoods; overwhelmed storm shelters; and dangerous fallen power lines and trees.

As we work to rebuild our cities and support our displaced neighbors and friends, let this be a sobering reminder that in emergencies, we all have a responsibility to protect the most-fragile members of our society.

Fortunately, as we learned during these two storms, neighbors help neighbors.

I’m still in awe of the incredible courage and kindness demonstrated by our government officials, our health care providers, our emergency responders and our very own WellCare associates. Our government officials and civic leaders effectively updated and prepared our communities, many of which were forced to evacuate or take shelter; health care providers worked round-the-clock coverage staffing hospitals and emergency rooms; and our brave first responders risked their lives to perform flood-related rescues and other emergency services.

And at WellCare, the character and compassion of our associates was on full display. During and after the storm, associates continued to work to ensure our members had access to needed medications, equipment and support—all while keeping their friends and families safe during an incredibly stressful experience.

Take for example, our associates in Texas who went above and beyond to deliver oxygen to one of our members who had relocated to a different shelter in the state. Or our associates in Houston who took the initiative to help their colleagues by preparing rooms in the office so that their children had a safe place to spend their days as they waited for schools and daycare facilities to reopen. WellCare’s Community Assistance Line, which connects members of the general public (member and non-member) to needed social services, extended its hours and connected more than 50 additional callers to approximately 150 social services during the storms.


I’m also incredibly proud of the generous hearts of our associates. To date, associates have donated nearly $55,000 of their own savings to support our Associate Assistance Fund. Every dollar donated goes directly to a WellCare associate in crisis, and through October 1, WellCare will match all donations. The company was also proud to announce a $1 million donation to Volunteer Florida to support disaster recovery efforts in the state.

While the storms may have passed, the recovery is just beginning. Hurricane season is still upon us, and WellCare’s mission to serve is as important as ever. We go beyond health care to help our members live better, healthier lives, and our members and our associates need us now to help restore their dreams and put their lives back together.

Burdick_KenKen Burdick is the CEO of WellCare Health Plans.

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

  1. Ken, I have the privilege of working with your pharmacy team. As a Tampa Bay “neighbor” myself, proud to be able to work with your teams and focus on the patients we serve!

    Thank you for leading Wellcare with such focus and humility!


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