He isn’t a doctor or a senator, but Steve Burd played a crucial role in the recent health-care debate. The ordinarily low-profile exec, 60, appeared repeatedly on Capitol Hill to describe the health and financial benefits of the grocery chain’s unconventional wellness program, which includes lower insurance premiums for nonunion employees who maintain healthy blood-pressure and cholesterol levels and don’t smoke. Burd insists that the company’s health-care costs rose just 2% from 2005 to 2009 compared to a nearly 40% increase for most companies. “The Safeway amendment”–a provision that increases the incentives companies can pay healthy employees–is now law. Fresh off the victory, Burd launched Safeway Health, a subsidiary that designs similar wellness plans for other companies.
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