Last year I attended a health care conference in Chicago where Safeway gave a presentation on how they reduced employee health care expenses starting in 2005 by implementing wellness programs and adopting financial incentives. The secret ingredient for Safeway was rewarding healthy behavior. This was an outstanding presentation that I remember very well, and the results were so remarkable, I expected just about every corporation at that conference to follow Safeway’s lead.
Recently in the Wall Street Journal, Steven Burd, the CEO of Safeway Inc., and founder of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, wrote an article on reducing health-care costs. Mr. Burd discusses how market-based solutions can reduce the national health-care bill by 40% and the key to achieving these savings is health-care plans that reward healthy behavior. While comprehensive health-care reform is extremely complicated and needs to address a number of critical issues, personal responsibility and financial incentives are the path to a healthier America. This is a proven fact. The Safeway team calculates that if the nation adopted their approach in 2005, the nation’s direct health-care bill would be $550 billion less than it is today.
Financial incentives certainly help modify behavior. Rewards like reduced premiums, rebates, discounts, gift cards, free health club memberships, bonuses, certainly help influence employees healthy behavior. And the greatest rewards of all --ones that provides you with “feeling terrific, looking terrific” and “living healthier” are priceless.