Beginning January 1, the grocery giant is giving non-union administrative employees up to $800 in rebates on health insurance premiums. The program, called Healthy Measures, rewards employees for remaining within limits on four common medical risk factors - smoking, obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Seventy percent of health-care costs are linked to behavior such as smoking, eating too much of the wrong things and not getting enough exercise, says Safeway Senior Vice President Ken Shachmut.
Safeway is following a policy of "health re-engineering." The company’s goal is to give individuals more control of their health dollars and to focus more on prevention than on treatment.
In addition to the Health Measures program, Safeway offers employees many ways to get and stay healthy. Wellness measures include:
- A state-of-the-art fitness center near Safeway's Pleasanton headquarters.
- Free lunch at the company cafeteria for every eight visits to the gym.
- Subsidized cafeteria, which offers lots of vegetarian fare.
- Portion size, calorie count, cholesterol and fiber count posted for all prepared meals in the cafeteria.
But the company is one of a number of businesses experimenting with programs to reward good health practices, according to Stephen Shortell, dean of the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and a specialist in health policy and management. Other approaches include “lower co-pays and eliminating deductibles for insurance coverage for healthier employees, and direct cash bonuses for achieving certain outcomes, such as blood-sugar measurements,” according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Employers can play a very important role in reinforcing what patients and their doctors are trying to do," Shortell said.
What else can wellness professionals do?
- Educate employees with educational sessions on basic preventive measures.
- Consider using incentive programs to encourage employees to adopt healthy behaviors.
- Encourage more activity on the job and at home.