The Blog

Health Care, Safeway Style

The Washington Post unwittingly makes a case against ObamaCare.

7:06 PM, Jan 18, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

On Sunday, the Washington Post tried to discredit the Safeway model of health care reform — clearly hoping to make ObamaCare look better in comparison.But if one reads the story carefully, it offers further evidence of the wisdom of the Safeway approach and the folly of ObamaCare.

Health Care, Safeway Style

The Post takes Safeway CEO Steven Burd to task for claiming that Safeway held health costs “constant” for four years. In fact, the Post reports, Safeway’s costs actually rose 2 percent over that period — or 0.5 percent per year. If only the Democrats’ claims about ObamaCare were accurate within that margin of error.

Then, as the Post notes, Safeway’s costs rose 8.5 percent last year — a somewhat predictable short-term rise, as aggressive health screening prompted employees to seek treatment for newly detected problems. On page 4 (the final page) of the online version of the story, the Post gets around to noting — still obliquely — that this means Safeway’s costs have now risen 11 percent over five years, compared to an average of well over 30 percent for other plans nationally.

How has Safeway kept costs down? The Post writes (again, on page-4), “In 2006, [Safeway] restructured its benefits to make employees more cost-conscious. Under the new structure, the company would pay the first $1,000 of a family's annual medical expenses, and the employee would generally be responsible for the next $1,000. It began covering 100 percent of the bill for preventive measures such as mammograms and colonoscopies. It paid people to complete health questionnaires, encouraged use of generic drugs and in 2008 increased the limit on employees' out-of-pocket expenses.”


In short, Safeway gives individual Americans a skin in the game and more control over their own health-care dollars — which is the way to keep down costs without rationing care.

The Post also reports on page 4 that Safeway employees are now less likely to be obese, overweight, have high cholesterol or blood pressure, or smoke.

And yet, the Post concludes, “Any number of changes in the company's benefits plan might contribute to the explanation” of Safeway’s success. The Post makes it clear that it thinks further research is in order.

Very well. But this begs the question: How many decades of research on ObamaCare are in order prior to voting on whether to make it law?

Then, again, as polls have shown nationwide, Americans have a way of sniffing out particularly bad ideas without the benefit of years of exhaustive research.

Recent Blog Posts