SN Year in Review 2007: Safeway Sets New Course on Health Care

THE FOOD INDUSTRY took an early and decisive stand on health care during 2007, led by Steve Burd. In a speech at last January's midwinter conference of the Food Marketing Institute, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., sought to enlist the business community in changing the rules of the game on health care, because it's in all of our best interests to

THE FOOD INDUSTRY took an early and decisive stand on health care during 2007, led by Steve Burd.

In a speech at last January's midwinter conference of the Food Marketing Institute, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., sought to enlist the business community “in changing the rules of the game on health care, because it's in all of our best interests to do that. We can solve this problem, both inside our companies and for the nation, with market-based solutions.”

Burd subsequently formed The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, a 36-member group that includes other retail executives, along with representatives from manufacturing companies, drug firms and insurance companies.

The coalition started its efforts in California, Burd said, “because California is so big and so complicated that if we can solve [the issue of health care] there, we can become a template for the nation. And we, as business leaders, ought to engage in that effort.”

Tackling the problem on the national level means encouraging healthy behavior among employees, Burd said in his presentation. “Alter behavior, and you get a different outcome,” he said.

Safeway got its employees involved by having them fill out a health-risk questionnaire, which qualified them for a deduction on their premium and also gave them a baseline for taking care of any medical conditions they had.

“With this proactive care management, based on individual needs, they learn how to change their behavior. And if they change their behavior, they get further reductions in the health care plan,” Burd explained.