Cover Story: Obamacare: This Might Hurt a Little

An examination of what the Affordable Care Act means to your business

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
Melissa Vonder Haar, Tobacco Editor

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Creating a Healthy Culture

As some retailers look to cut back full-time employees to manage the impending employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), others have gone in the other direction, putting employee-driven health and wellness programs at the center of their company culture, regardless of what the government requires.

Cumberland Gulf Group: “It’s not just a smart thing to do—it’s the right thing to do.” This is what Ari Haseotes, president and COO of Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Gulf Group, said of the decision to offer more than 1,500 employees health-care coverage beginning Oct. 1, 2013—more than a year before the 600-store retailer needed to do so under the ACA.

QuickChek: “We are committed to being a great place to work … and part of that investment is to have a wellness strategy to achieve a healthy workforce,” says QuickChek CEO Dean Durling. The Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based chain offers its full-time employees medical, dental and vision plans; fitness-center reimbursement; discounts on fruits and salads to encourage healthy on-the-job meals; free flu shots; and a “Fit for Life” wellness program that encourages employees to improve their health through risk assessments and annual physicals in exchange for a discount on medical plan costs.

Kwik Trip: “Our co-workers are our No. 1 asset, and if they are your No. 1 asset, then you make sure that you put your time and resources into taking care of those people,” said Kwik Trip corporate communications manager John McHugh of the January 2014 opening of an on-site health clinic, just the latest commitment in caring for its employees, and perhaps reducing the company’s health-care costs at the same time. Located at Kwik Trip’s La Crosse, Wis., headquarters, the clinic will service about 3,000 area employees, with online resources for 8,000 additional team members.

Sheetz: “With escalating health-care costs, we were looking for a way we could provide a program for our employees that could help control health-care costs. Our goal is to create a culture of  'Shwellness,’ ” says Bill Young, Sheetz’s director of compensation, benefits and risk. The 10,000-square-foot, $3.5 million Sheetz Health and Wellness Center in Altoona, Pa., offers employees and their families primary care, health assessments, lifestyle coaching, disease management services and an impressive 4,300-square-foot fitness center.

QuikTrip: “We don’t ask what it costs. … The bottom line is everyone is healthier, and the cost to us is irrelevant on the back side.” This is how Mike Thornbrugh, spokesperson for the Tulsa, Okla.-based retailer, responded in the wake of the 2009 opening of QuikTrip’s second on-site employee health clinic—nicknamed “Doc in the Box”—in Belton, Mo. “No matter what Congress decides, we’re going to do this,” he said. “No offense to elected officials, but at QuikTrip, we think we know what our employees want and expect, so we’re going to go forward with what we’re doing regardless.”

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