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Friday, January 29, 2010

Whole Foods to Base Employee Discounts on Wellness Scores

Whole Foods Market, the national grocery store chain, has announced that it will now tie employee discounts to several health categories: tobacco use, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index. The NY Daily News published the story this week.

According to the Daily News article, employees who choose to participate will be placed into one of four categories (Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze), depending on their wellness scores. The employee discounts they receive vary accordingly:
  • Platinum = 30% discount
  • Gold = 27% discount
  • Silver = 25% discount
  • Bronze = 22% discount
All Whole Foods employees receive a 20% discount automatically, even if they do not participate in the program.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, caused a furor last August with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that criticized some elements of the health care reform bill. Now, because of this latest initiative, some are talking about boycotts.

I never understood the uproar over Mackey's op-ed, and I'm equally perplexed by the response to his company's wellness program (at least by those quoted in the Daily News). Financial incentives are one of the best ways to encourage healthier behavior and lower costs.

Our friends at HR Morning found that 61% of the 346 HR managers they surveyed responded to rising health care costs by raising premiums in 2009. 18% simply reduced benefits. Kudos to Whole Foods for taking a different approach--one that may encourage their employees to make healthier choices.

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