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Burd Gives His Health Care Talk

Steve Burd, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Safeway, gave his inspired presentation about health care reform this afternoon at the CIES World Food Business Summit in New York.

He described how Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway has kept health care costs in check using a program of "personal responsibility" and financial incentives.

It was an interesting talk to give at the event, where many of the attendees hail from countries that have nationally sponsored health care systems, but as Burd pointed out, some of the reforms rolled out by Safeway could be adopted by the national heath care administrative bodies in other countries.

Burd has given this talk many times before, and just last week penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal describing it.

Still, he offered a few updates at the CIES meeting. He noted that he believes he has found a way to pay for expanding the U.S. health care system that "hasn't been talked about in Washington," but he declined to divulge further details. "It's not ready for prime time yet," he said.

Another tidbit he offered was that Safeway is compiling a database using the experiences of its 200,000 employees that will offer a searchable directory listing the costs of common health-care procedures. This will allow workers to find the lowest-cost options within their ZIP codes. Safeway hopes to launch the database by the end of the year.

During the Q&A that followed his presentation, some attendees probed the Safeway CEO about the responsibility of CPG companies and supermarkets with regard to selling less-than-healthy products. Burd responded that people should have the freedom to eat whatever they choose, but need to be better educated about making good nutritional choices and should be encouraged to exercise.