Safeway forges leadership role in nation’s quest for health reform

PLEASANTON, Calif. —By every measure, Safeway is one of the top supermarket and pharmacy chains in the country. The company operates some 1,700 supermarkets under a slew of banners across the United States, from the West Coast to the mid-Atlantic states, as well as in western Canada. Of those stores, 77% include pharmacies.

Those 1,300 pharmacies offer a growing complement of patient care and preventive health services, including one of the industry’s most comprehensive immunization programs and a variety of health screenings and educational offerings. Safeway also is forging new ties to combine the health and patient-care capabilities of its in-store pharmacies with a growing array of healthy eating and nutritional programs in its food aisles.

Among its nutritional offerings: FoodFlex, an online tool that compares a household’s Safeway loyalty card purchases with USDA guidelines and provides a personalized nutritional guide; and O Organics, which brings an expanding array of organic food choices to all age groups.

But Safeway’s efforts to improve America’s health report card go beyond its own employees and customers. The company’s president and CEO Steve Burd has emerged as a champion of efforts to cut bloated healthcare costs, apply economies of scale and transparency to the delivery and payment of healthcare services and limit the government’s role in the private healthcare system.

No. of stores1,730
Stores with Rx1,300

Those efforts—which reward employees for adopting healthier eating and lifestyle choices, and encourage market-based solutions to rising health costs and lack of coverage among many Americans—have gotten attention from Washington policymakers. Indeed, a proposal dubbed the “Safeway Amendment” found its way into the health-reform plan that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee headed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

The amendment would “incentivize Americans to lead healthy lifestyles in order to lower their overall healthcare costs.” How? By encouraging employer-sponsored health plans to reward their workers for undergoing regular health screenings, quitting smoking and making healthier lifestyle and nutritional choices.

“We are reversing the national trend of rising healthcare costs through an innovative plan for workers that pays 100% of preventive care, rewards good behavior and allows employees to take more control of their healthcare decisions,” Burd said. “Through prevention and behavior incentives, we have produced remarkable results by providing a better, more comprehensive health plan with significantly lower out-of-pocket costs.”

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