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PLEASANTON, Calif. - Steve Burd, the chairman, president, and c.e.o. of Safeway Inc., based here, yesterday joined Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and leaders from business, labor, and health care in calling for a new national approach to reforming health care.
During a Capitol Hill press conference where Senator Wyden unveiled health care legislation aimed at providing affordable, high quality, private health coverage for all individuals, Burd underscored the importance of renewing the national discussion on health care reform and crafting market-based, bipartisan solutions to the nation's health care crisis.
"Senator Wyden, with his commitment and passion for health care reform, has introduced an innovative proposal that lays a foundation to begin a serious discussion on health care reform in this country," said Burd. "Our nation is facing a crisis that requires immediate attention. Working together, business, labor, government, consumer groups, and health care providers can collectively solve this problem."
Burd noted that if left unchecked, health care costs for companies are projected to equal net profits by 2008. He praised many of the key elements in the Wyden plan that could reduce overall health care costs, including market-based solutions, an individual mandate, incentives to encourage healthy behavior, an emphasis on preventive care, and shared responsibility among individuals, employers, government, and health care providers.
Burd said he wants to work together and strengthen elements of the plan to ensure appropriate levels of coverage and a fair, equitable transition for consumers and employers.
"The problems facing the current health care system can be solved, but it will take innovative leadership," said Burd. "Without some dramatic change, not only will the uninsured population continue to grow but the American worker will become less competitive. We have a unique opportunity to solve this problem and instill market mechanisms that reduce costs, increase affordability and improve health by assisting individuals in making better health care decisions."
During the past two years Safeway has moved to a consumer-driven plan for its non-union workforce that aligns personal incentives with healthy choices. According to the retailer, in 2007, more than 70 percent of eligible non-union employees will be enrolled in this plan, which pays 100 percent of preventive care and provides incentives to improve health care decisions. The total health care costs for these employees have decreased 30 percent over the two-year period versus the prior increasing trend. Safeway passed the majority of these savings on directly to those employees, Burd said.
Safeway operates 1,767 stores in the United States and Canada and had annual sales of $38.4 billion in 2005.