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Safeway’s Health Measures program follows healthcare-reform amendment

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN FRANCISCO Safeway’s Health Measures program — a wellness-driven healthcare program that provides employees with incentives to pursue healthier lifestyles — appears to be the real-world example on which a recent amendment to healthcare reform was based, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Tom Carper, D-Del., members of the Senate Finance Committee, last week won strong support from both sides of the Congressional aisle for an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s healthcare reform bill that will incentivize Americans to lead healthier lifestyles as part of an effort to lower their overall healthcare costs.

“Weight gain and unhealthy lifestyles that focus on smoking and lack of exercise have sky-rocketed our healthcare costs,” Ensign said in a statement released last week. “These costs could be lowered by focusing on what makes us healthy — through weight loss programs, smoking cessation and preventive care. Voluntary employee participation in these areas should naturally be reflected in lower healthcare costs,” he said.  “My amendment would guarantee that the incentive is strong enough for Americans to want to participate. This isn’t just about offering financial incentives; this is about making Americans healthier.”

The amendment passed with overwhelming support from both parties with a vote of 18-4.

Under current HIPAA wellness program regulations, health plans can offer financial rewards to individuals based on achieving a certain health goal only if certain criteria are met. The current reward threshold is limited to less than 20% of the total cost of the employee’s coverage.  The Ensign-Carper amendment will increase the existing reward to 30% and give the Department of Health and Human Services the authbority to increase the reward to 50%.

The Ensign-Carper amendment, or the “Safeway Amendment” as described by one Ensign spokesman, will also provide waivers to participants who cannot meet the applied standard due to a medical condition.

The Senate HELP Committee included a similar provision in its reform bill earlier this year, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The HELP provision like the Ensign-Carper amendment provides more flexibility under HIPAA and expands the amount that is allowed for employers to reward employees for participating in wellness programs from 20% to 30%.

The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, founded by Safeway CEO Steve Burd, applauded the bipartisan passage of the wellness amendment. “Many of CAHR’s members have successfully pioneered wellness programs that have reduced costs and enhanced the overall health of their employees. These programs are an important piece of the overall health reform puzzle,” stated CAHR executive director Darren Willcox.

“CAHR is pleased to have worked with leaders of both the Senate HELP Committee and now the Senate Finance Committee to amend the legislation moving its way through the Congress,” Willcox said. “We look forward to working with Sens. Harkin, Ensign, and Carper to ensure these changes remain in whatever final healthcare bill passes later this year. By encouraging Americans to live healthier lifestyles, these amendments could lower the long-term cost of health care.”

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Weis Markets adds two directors to pharmacy operations, food services

BY Michael Johnsen

SUNBURY, Pa. Weis Markets on Monday named Dennis Yoney to director of pharmacy operations and Geoffrey Wexler as director of food service and deli.

As director of pharmacy operations, Yoney will oversee day-to-day pharmacy operations and the execution of the company’s strategic initiatives across its 119 pharmacies. He reports to Jeff Maltese, Weis Markets VP pharmacy. Yoney has worked in pharmacy field operations at the regional level for Rite Aid, government affairs for Brooks/Eckerd and as a district manager for Eckerd.

Yoney is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy.

Wexler will assume oversight of the pricing, procurement and promotion for the company’s deli and food service programs and will report to Harry Giglio, Weis Markets VP perishables.

Prior to joining Weis Markets, Wexler was with Publix Supermarkets where he helped oversee all aspects of the company’s prepared food program. During his career, Wexler also worked for Sodexho Corporate Services, NexStore Marketplace and eatZi’s Market and Bakery.

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Stater Bros. announces completion of distribution center

BY Allison Cerra

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. Stater Bros. planned an enthusiastic welcome for the final group of Stater Bros. employees to move into its state-of-the-art corporate offices and Norton Distribution Center in San Bernardino, Calif.

On Oct. 5, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to commemorate the opening of the new 155,000-sq.-ft. Stater Bros. support services building. Over 500 Stater Bros. employees from throughout the company were present to celebrate this long-awaited event.

The new support services building houses the company’s bakery division as well as the advertising, construction, maintenance, purchasing, store systems and real estate departments. The relocation to the new Stater Bros. corporate offices and Norton Distribution Center has spanned over a two-year period, and these employees are the last to make the move to their new home.

The Stater Bros. Norton Distribution Center is the largest under-one-roof distribution center in America’s supermarket industry, the company said.

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