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Walmart, Lowe’s join Pacific Business Group on Health to launch Employers Centers of Excellence Network

BY Mike Troy

SAN FRANCISCO — With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mired in controversy, two of the nation’s largest retailers are backing an innovative Employers Centers of Excellence Network that will offer no-cost knee and hip-replacement surgeries at four highly regarded hospitals.

Walmart and Lowe’s issued a joint statement that they and other large employers had joined the Pacific Business Group on Health Negotiating Alliance (PBGH-NA) to launch the national Employer’s Centers of Excellence Network.

“These companies are working to help make sure that their employees get higher quality care and incur lower costs,” said David Lansky, president and CEO of PBGH. “The Employers Centers of Excellence Network is designed to serve as a model for delivering high quality health care with transparent and predictable costs.”

PBGH and healthcare management company Health Design Plus will oversee the program, which includes treatment for knee and hip replacement surgeries for the more than 1.5 million employees and their dependents enrolled in the Walmart, Lowe’s and other employers’ medical plans. The only catch for employees is that they required to obtain care at 1-of-4 designated center of excellence healthcare organizations that include Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.; Kaiser Permanente Orange County Irvine Medical Center in Irvine, Calif.; Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo.; and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. 

Employees will receive consultations and care covered at 100% without deductible or coinsurance, plus travel, lodging and living expenses for the patient and a caregiver. Patients must be healthy enough to travel for the surgeries. The program is voluntary and employees or their covered dependents can still choose to receive care from local providers and incur routine costs, according to program rules.
 
“This national program is about providing our associates with exceptional care and reducing their medical costs so that they pay nothing out of pocket when they use one of the designated facilities,” said Sally Welborn, SVP global benefits at Walmart. ”Each of these providers has a proven record of practicing evidence-based medicine with above average positive patient outcomes in knee and hip replacement procedures.”

According to Lowe’s VP international human resources Randy Moon, “Under this program, employees and their dependents covered under Lowe’s medical plan have access to medical care at renowned medical facilities at no cost. This is especially important for our employees who live in areas underserved by high quality health care providers. The four healthcare centers are located throughout the United States, making it easier for employees who wish to use this benefit to travel.”
 
The national Employers Centers of Excellence Network complements Centers of Excellence programs that Walmart and Lowe’s have and will continue to offer separately from the alliance with PBGH-NA.  
 
In 2013, Walmart expanded its long-standing program covering transplants at the Mayo Clinic to also include treatment for certain heart and spine surgeries at five leading hospital and health systems in the United States, including ECEN providers Virginia Mason and Mercy Springfield, for associates and their covered dependents enrolled in medical plans.
 
In 2010, Lowe’s began an alliance with Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, to provide its full-time employees and their covered dependents enrolled in the company’s self-funded medical plans enhanced benefits coverage for qualifying heart surgery procedures.

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Giant-Landover receives top award from D.C. USO

BY Alaric DeArment

LANDOVER, Md. — USO’s division for the nation’s capital has named supermarket chain Giant Food of Landover, Md., to its USO-Metro 2013 Circle of the Stars for an annual networking event, the chain said.

Giant-Landover said it received the honor during the non-profit group’s 10th annual Stars and Stripes Night at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Va. Giant said the Circle of the Stars is an elite award given to top-level corporate donors that provide funding to support USO-Metro’s mission to lift the spirits of military service members and their families. Giant was named at the Four-Star level, the highest.

"We are so honored and humbled that giant is an active and generous supporter of USO-Metro," USO of Metropolitan Washington president and CEO Elaine Rogers said. "This past year, USO-Metro touched the lives of thousands of local and traveling military members and their families. We couldn’t provide the broad range of programs we deliver without the generous and incredible support of Giant and its amazing associates."

 

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Accenture forecasts that holiday spending will increase 11%

BY Marianne Wilson

Shoppers in the United States plan on spending an average of $646 on gifts this holiday season, representing an 11% increase over the $582 they planned to spend, on average, in 2012, according to Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey. The forecast uptick is more optimistic than other holiday surveys released to date.

“The average dollar spend is trending up, and we are seeing a consumer mindset shifting from ‘cautious’ to ‘sensible,’ which is good news for retailers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “However, retailers are mindful that during the 2013 Thanksgiving-Christmas shopping period, they will have six days less in which to tempt shoppers through their doors, so many will go big and go early.” 

The survey also shows that the appeal of Black Friday shopping for consumers has reached a five-year high, with 55% of shoppers say they are likely to shop on the day after Thanksgiving versus 53% in 2012. However, 30% of shoppers said they will do most of their Black Friday shopping online, compared to 25% in 2012. 

Survey results also indicate that Thanksgiving Day has emerged as an established season event, with 38% of shoppers likely to shop on the holiday. Of those shoppers, 41% indicated that they will be out shopping between 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

“Thanksgiving Day shopping is now a firm fixture in the holiday season, “Donnelly said. “We will see more stores opening early on that day in order to capture their share of consumer spending. Although retailers’ main draw on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday will be ‘doorbuster’ deals, shoppers will be demanding discounts of 30% or more throughout the season.” (Sixty-two% of respondents said it will take a discount of 30% or more to persuade them to make a purchase, compared to 52% in 2012.)

Discount retailers will remain the top destination for shoppers this season (76%), while 50% of survey respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 44% in 2012.

The survey results indicate that consumers expect to shop seamlessly across in-store, online and mobile channels this holiday season. More shoppers — 63% versus 56% in 2012 — are likely to participate in “showrooming” this holiday season, which the survey defined as going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making their purchase online.  

However, 65% also plan to participate in “webrooming,” or browsing online and then going to a store to make their purchase. Survey respondents said that avoiding shipping costs (47%) and being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46%) were their primary motivations for webrooming.  

Although 42% of consumers plan to spend at least half of their holiday shopping dollars online, they also will be looking to take advantage of store-focused technology-enabled services, such as purchase online with in-store delivery or pick-up (36%), and the ability to see up-to-date information on product availability (21%).

In other survey results: 

Gift cards are still number one on consumers’ shopping lists (56%), followed by apparel (54%), toys (44%) and personal electronics (27%), including laptops, tablets and smartphones.

A growing number of consumers will make purchases or research gifts using their tablets (19% versus 15% in 2012) and smartphones (18% versus 14% in 2012).

 

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