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Safeway CEO Steve Burd was among the business leaders praised by President Barack Obama yesterday for innovative approaches to health care, saying that the retailer was among "the best practitioners of prevention and wellness programs -- in the private sector."

The comments took place after a White House conference focusing on the health care issue.

Safeway’s approach - to make employees responsible for living healthier lifestyles, including losing weight, stopping smoking, while rewarding them for positive steps – has saved the company millions of dollars. Safeway’s program – which has 75 percent buy-in from nonunion employees – essentially gives discounts on health insurance costs to employees who attain and maintain certain minimum standards, while those who do not meet established levels pay more for health insurance premiums. And while Safeway spends $1 billion a year on health care costs, that number has not gone up since 2005.

KC's View:
Perhaps it is fair to suggest that while a lot of people were complaining about the rising cost of health care, Steve Burd led a movement to change to say, in essence, “Yes, we can.”