Safeway carrot-stick plan a boon to reform

There was a little local pride in a key segment of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill reported today by Andrew S. Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle:

It’s not every day a local grocery has a congressional amendment named after it. Such an honor has been bestowed on Pleasanton’s Safeway Inc., whose stick-and-carrot health insurance program is the model for a “wellness provision” in a health care reform bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee last week by an unusually bipartisan 18-4 vote.

“Yes, it’s quite fair to call it the ‘Safeway amendment,’ ” said a spokesman for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who co-sponsored the amendment with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “He’s a big advocate of the Safeway program.”The provision, designed to “incentivize Americans to lead healthy lifestyles in order to lower their overall health care costs,” would allow companies with self-insurance programs to reward employees with bonuses and/or premium reductions of up to 50 percent if they follow health guidelines, like undergoing regular screenings, quitting smoking, losing weight, taking cholesterol-reducing medications and so on.

While some question the accuracy of reported cost savings, the measure has strong support among key politicians up to and including President Obama.

As a beneficiary of Kaiser‘s “wellness” program — a constant push toward healthy lifestyles and preventive medicine — I hope this piece of the legislation stays. As long as he’s not going to resign, Senator Ensign might as well be doing something useful over there.

via Safeway plan part of Senate health care debate.

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