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Safeway recognized for employee health care

BY Michael Johnsen

PHOENIX —The National Business Coalition on Health, a nonprofit organization of employer-based health coalitions, last month recognized Safeway with the Employer Excellence in Value-Based Purchasing Award for its leadership and efforts in improving the quality and efficiency of the healthcare delivery system, controlling healthcare expenditures at the community level and improving the health of its employees, namely through Safeway’s Healthy Measures program.

Healthy Measures is one of the models on which legislators currently are basing healthcare reform, as reported by Drug Store News in its Oct. 26 issue. “Employers and coalitions play a critical role in reforming the healthcare system by demanding quality and value in care delivery,” stated Andrew Webber, president and CEO of NBCH. “We are proud to recognize [Safeway as an] industry innovator, and provide a forum to communicate best practices for the efforts of healthcare purchasers to improve health and health care.”

“We appreciate the recognition from NBCH, and commend their work on behalf of employers to improve the efficiency of our nation’s healthcare system,” stated Ken Shachmut, EVP of Safeway Health.

Healthy Measures has helped cut Safeway’s healthcare expenditures by more than $150 million since 2005, according to published reports. Shachmut likened Healthy Measures to car insurance during his keynote address before NBCH, where high-risk drivers are penalized with higher premiums. “No one in this room, I will wager, thinks that’s unfair,” Shachmut said. “We believe the same philosophy holds true for health care. If you buy the argument that behavior is important, it’s a travesty that most insurance plans don’t provide incentives to motivate changes in behavior, and few of them have cost and quality transparency.”

High-risk health behaviors place a greater healthcare cost burden on employer plans, Shachmut noted. As much as $1,405 is spent in health care supporting the health of a smoker versus a nonsmoker, $1,400 supporting someone with obesity versus someone at a healthy weight, $645 supporting someone who doesn’t regularly exercise and $600 for uncontrolled hypertension.

To help foster healthier behaviors, Safeway initiated an incentive program where employees who substantiated their healthier behaviors received incentive discounts on their Safeway medical plan contributions. Safeway also established set pricing for common medical procedures, offering employees full coverage for those procedures up to those pricing limits. The difference would have to be paid by the employee, and that wouldn’t count against the employee’s annual deductible, a measure that forces employees to comparison-shop healthcare facilities for value.

Through that stick-and-carrot combination approach, Safeway’s 2009 healthcare costs are projected to be just 2% higher than 2005, and next year will be just 1% more than 2005, Shachmut said. The company has shared about 60% of the money saved to reduce employee premiums.

In September, Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Tom Carper, D-Del., members of the Senate Finance Committee, won strong support from both sides of the congressional aisle for an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare-reform bill that similarly would incentivize Americans to lead healthier lifestyles—the Healthy Measure’s carrot—as part of an effort to lower their overall healthcare costs. California state controller John Chiang estimated such a program could equate into a return of $4.80 for every $1 invested into a wellness program.

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Hy-Vee names new president

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.

The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.

Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.

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Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.

Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.

“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”

It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .

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