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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Safeway's "Healthy Measures" Under Scrutiny

A recent article in the Washington Post highlights the tremendous impact that Safeway's employee wellness program (called Healthy Measures) has had on the debate over health care reform. We've blogged several times about the company's wellness initiatives.

In a Wall Street Journal article last summer, Safeway's CEO claimed that the company's health care costs had been held flat for four years, thanks to their Healthy Measures wellness program. The Post questions that assertion, pointing out that the central component of the Healthy Measures program--insurance premium adjustments based on the results of annual biometric testing--started in 2009. By then, Safeway's health care costs were actually on the rise.

While the Post's point is well-taken, I think it's important not to dismiss the impact of Safeway's annual screenings.

In only two years of wellness testing:
  • The number of employees classified as obese declined five percent, and the number of overweight employees declined by one percent.
  • 40 percent of participants who failed the blood pressure test in 2008 passed in 2009.
  • 30 percent of former smokers registered as tobacco-free.
  • 17 percent of employees who failed the cholesterol test in 2008 passed in 2009.
Whatever your politics, it's hard to argue with those results.

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