Dr. Oscar B. Camp

Baltimore Surgeon Founded Laurel General And Later Began The Optical Insurance Plan That Became United Healthcare

July 13, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Dr. Oscar B. Camp, a former Baltimore surgeon who was the founder and CEO of United Optical Inc., which later became United HealthCare Inc., died July 4 at his Severna Park home from a fall. He was 88.

Oscar Wilde Camponeschi, the son of a restaurant maitre d'hotel and a mother who was an official of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, was born in New York City, and raised in Flushing, N.Y.

Dr. Camp, who changed his name to Oscar Bambace Camp, was a graduate of Newtown High School in Queens, N.Y.

He began his college studies at Long Island University and later transferred to the University of Maryland, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1941.

Dr. Camp earned his medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1945, and worked for the U.S. Public Health Service from 1946 to 1948, while completing a general surgical residency at New York Medical College.

In the late 1940s he moved to Baltimore, where he established a general surgical practice.

"In the 1960s, he established Laurel General Hospital where he pioneered the practice of pre-admission testing to minimize potential hazardous, unnecessarily lengthy hospital stays," said his son, Dr. Michael R. Camp, a retired physician who lives in Pikesville.

The elder Dr. Camp had operating privileges at Maryland General Hospital, South Baltimore General Hospital, Prince George's Hospital Center and Franklin Square Hospital Center.

Dr. Camp played a pivotal role in relocating the old Franklin Square Hospital to its current White Marsh location in 1961, his son said.

In response to his mother's urging in the 1960s, Dr. Camp, who stopped practicing medicine in 1968, established United Optical Inc. with partner Kenneth Blum.

"The company provided pretax, prepaid eye exams and eyeglasses to garment workers," his son said. "Many other small and large groups signed up for coverage, including in 1968, the City of Baltimore, and the company soon became established throughout the country."

The Baltimore-based company, which changed its name to United HealthCare Inc., later provided dental and medical benefit management plans for companies, labor unions and government agencies in more than 40 states.

"Subsequently, a prescription card services division, a dental HMO and PPO division, and a utilization review division were added," his son said. "The corporate name which was changed to Spectra Inc., which covered 1.5 million lives, was acquired in 2001 by UnitedHealth Group.

In 1990, Dr. Camp provided the financial backing for the establishment of MagnaCare, a PPO in New York City that covered patients in New York and New Jersey. He sold the business in 2002.

Dr. Camp, who retired in 2000, had also served with the U.S. Agency for International Development, traveling throughout the Mideast and helping to establish a health clinic in Lebanon. He also served as a health care consultant to the Clinton administration.

He had been chairman of the Baltimore-Genoa Sister Cities Committee and was awarded the Merit of Honor of Cavalieri by the president of Italy.

Dr. Camp was given an award by the Jewish National Fund of Maryland in 1979 for his "championship of labor and his history of humanitarian and philanthropic performance."

Dr. Camp's philanthropic interests also included the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Hannah More School.

At Friends School, his philanthropy allowed for the construction of the Jonathan M. Camp Memorial Science and Mathematics Wing in memory of his son, who died in 1971, and the establishment of the Jonathan M. Camp Memorial Scholarship Fund for needy students.

Dr. Camp was joined by his fellow health care executive and friend, Louis Nicholas, in purchasing historic Westminster Hall, where poet Edgar Allan Poe is buried, and presented the former Presbyterian church to the University of Maryland School of Law.

He was a charter member of Hillendale Country Club and an avid golfer, Colts and Ravens fan.

Dr. Camp enjoyed spending time at a second home in Boca Raton, Fla., cooking, entertaining, and collecting wine.

A memorial service was held Wednesday at Friends School.

Also surviving are his wife of 29 years, the former Lorraine Papciak; a daughter, Mindy Camponeschi of New York City; a brother, Philip Camponeschi of New York City; and two grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Dr. Leah Rosenblatt, former chief of anesthesiology at Franklin Square Medical Center, ended in divorce.

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