In one version of the Senate's health care bill up for debate next week, a provision meant to encourage preventive medicine for employees has been named for Pleasanton-based grocery chain Safeway. The company has a self-insurance program for its 200,000 employees that provides an incentive -- up to a 30% lower premium -- for any worker who takes steps to get healthier, like losing weight, quitting smoking, or lowering their cholesterol.
The so-called "Healthy Measures" program has helped keep Safeway's health care costs flat since it started, and Safeway CEO Steve Burd says, "If the entire country had taken Safeway’s plan design in 2004, by my calculations, we would have a health care bill in this nation that’s $600 billion lower."
Critics argue that incentive programs like this are discriminatory, effectively raising premiums for smokers, the obese and cholesterol-y challenged. The Senate, however, wants to find any way they can to lower the $800 billion-plus price tag on this bill.