December 3, 2018
Connecticut's Healthiest Employers 2018

Stew Leonard's brings health care to its employees

Stew Leonard's employees participate in a boot camp class.

1st Place | Category: 401+ CT employees: Stew Leonard's

Industry: Grocery store

CT Stores: Newington, Danbury and Norwalk

CT Employees: 533

Stew Leonard's, Connecticut's family owned and operated grocery store, doesn't just offer health care to its employees, it brings health care to them.

The company's wellness initiative, begun nearly 10 years ago, brings mobile, on-site healthcare access to its headquarters and six stores, offering health screenings, physicals, mammograms, flu shots and programs like diabetes care.

"We felt that focusing on health and wellness for team members and their dependents was important within our culture," said Karen Mazako, Stew Leonard's vice president of human resources. "We also saw healthcare costs continue to increase, and from a long-term perspective we thought we could impact the cost by focusing on preventable care."

To make sure employees know about those services and many others, the company offers annual "Shopping for Healthcare" classes. More than 80 percent of eligible team members attend, Mazako said.

"We educate our team members and show them opportunities where they can save money and get quality, cost-effective care," Mazako said, adding that the company has determined medical centers of "value," which offer higher-quality, lower-cost care members are encouraged to use.

As a result of those initiatives, Stew Leonard's has averaged an annual 0.5 percent increase in employee health insurance costs, compared to a national average of more than 6 percent, according to Walter Watson, the company's director of safety and wellness.

He believes the company's preventative-care initiatives have contributed to that success. Since incentivizing and encouraging team members to access more preventative care, he said the percentage of employees and dependents receiving annual physicals went from 19 percent to 85 percent.

Various incentives, including earning up to $1,000 toward insurance deductibles for completing a physical examination and health risk assessment, reward members who access preventative care. Other incentives include subsidized Fitbit purchases, reduced insurance premiums for non-tobacco users, incentive payments for using company-approved centers of value, free lunches and raffle prizes.

Of Stew Leonard's 530 eligible, full-time employees, a majority use the company's healthcare plan, said Mazako.

The company said the program is working with 84 percent of team members completing a health risk assessment while overall employee health engagement is rising significantly.

A company nurse rotates through the locations, as well, providing health coaching and connecting members to resources.

Another initiative is the Fitbit Challenge. For $30, Stew Leonard's will give team members a Fitbit for a 60-day competition to see who can log the most steps. More than 300 team members participated.

Stew Leonard Jr. leads the charge to enhance well-being for team members and their families, often participating in many of the events and activities like health fairs and challenges.

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