2012 Biggest C&K Loser team from the Ray’s in Merlin, Ore. Photos courtesy of C&K Market
Next May, three employees of C&K Market and their guests will be flown to Los Angeles to join a live studio audience for the season finale of NBC’s popular reality series, “The Biggest Loser.”
The trio was awarded the trip because they too are losers — but in a way that merits a reward. They were the winners of the independent retailer’s own weight loss contest, in which more than 550 participants shed in excess of 4,000 pounds.
“We’re really trying to change the culture around fitness and getting people moving,” said Kate Wilkinson, C&K’s corporate counsel and director of human resources.
The Biggest Loser competition is one of a handful of creative strategies the 65-store, Brookings, Ore.-based chain is pursuing in an ongoing effort to control health care costs. In 2009 C&K was facing double-digit increases to cover 1,000 employees, as well as an additional 1,200 family members, on the retailer’s health plan.
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Alan Nidiffer, executive vice president and grandson of C&K founder Ray Nidiffer, said the goal was simple, but elusive: Retain benefits while minimizing the financial impact on employees.
“We’re a private company, family-owned,” he said. “We don’t want to cut benefits and we don’t want to raise premiums.”
Faced with spiraling expenses, the retailer convened a special committee of 15 employees from across the company — executives, store managers and office personnel, among others — and charged them with finding ways to shift the focus from treatment to prevention.
“This group of folks came up with a wonderful set of recommendations that we today call our Healthy Choices program,” said Nidiffer.
In the three years since it was created, Healthy Choices has maintained costs at 2009 levels. The self-funded program cherry-picked elements of other companies’ plans (including Safeway, winner of the 2012 SN Whole Health Enterprise Award for excellence in health and wellness marketing); other components were the result of brainstorming sessions conducted by the committee.
The cornerstone of Healthy Choices is a biometric screening for all employees, regardless of health plan participation. Here, tests measure critical wellness factors such as body mass index, glucose, cholesterol, tobacco use and blood pressure. For each test passed, employees receive wellness credits. Depending upon the type of health coverage chosen, employees can receive up to $600 per year toward reduced premiums or as additional employer contributions to the person’s Health Savings Account.
The retailer offers three benefit plans — a low-deductible PPO, or two higher-deductible plans. C&K pre-funds HSAs for those choosing the more expensive options, up to a set amount. The contributions have helped steer nearly half of participating employees into choosing the higher-deductible plans.