National Business Group on Health Recognizes Costco Wholesale Corporation with 2018 Helen Darling Award for Excellence in Health Care Value and Innovation

WASHINGTON, DC, April 19, 2018 – The National Business Group on Health today honored Costco Wholesale Corporation with its prestigious Helen Darling Award for Excellence in Health Care Value and Innovation. Costco, which operates an international chain of membership warehouses, was recognized for its ongoing commitment and dedication to increasing the value of health care by improving quality and health outcomes for its employees and their families.

"We are pleased to honor Costco for its long-standing dedication to developing programs that improve the health and well-being of its employees and families,” said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “Costco’s initiatives in two broad areas of health care purchasing and benefit design – network strategy and leadership in addressing the behavioral health of their employees – are the types of innovation that are leading the drive to improve health care quality and control rising costs throughout corporate America.”

Costco has implemented several innovative initiatives over the past few years to help control rising health costs and improve the employee experience.  These initiatives include:  

  • Eliminated Out-of-Network benefits about four years ago after identifying fraud and very high charges in substance use disorder treatment facilities and ambulatory surgery centers. This change resulted in a savings of $65 million in one year, with rates of treatment remaining steady as employees shifted to higher-quality, lower cost in-network care.
  • Rebranded their employee assistance program as the “Care Network.” The confidential, free resource available to all employees and their families is utilized by 13% of Costco’s population and receives a 90% satisfaction rate.
  • Developed a successful partnership with AbleTo, a network of highly trained, clinically supervised therapists and behavioral coaches. As a result of patients using this resource, participants have reduced emergency room visits and hospital admissions as well as shorter disability durations.
  • Implemented a “Contract for Continued Employment” in collaboration with the Care Network –this program helps those who are at serious risk of losing their job due to substance misuse or disruptive work place behavior like anger or insensitivity issues.

Costco is also leading the fight to battle opioids. In 2013, they aligned their benefit design with their own pharmacies’ dispensing guidelines to ensure opioids were only delivered to appropriate patients. Since 2015, Costco reduced opioid prescriptions by 14% and opioid-using participants by 4% through a combination of stricter protocols and diversion strategies to encourage non-opioid pain management.

“On behalf of the entire Business Group and Board of Directors, we congratulate Costco and their leadership team for their commitment to improving health care quality and outcomes for Costco’s employees, and laying the groundwork for other employers to follow,” said Judy Verhave, chair of the board of the National Business Group on Health.

Costco received the award at the National Business Group on Health’s annual Business Health Agenda conference held April 18-20 in Washington, DC.  The award was presented to Donna Sexton, director of employee benefits, at Costco. 

About the Helen Darling Award for Excellence in Health Care Value and Innovation

The Helen Darling Award for Excellence in Health Care Value and Innovation recognizes outstanding employers, executives, or programs that encourage the efficient and cost-effective use of health care resources and have a demonstrated track record of controlling health care costs while ensuring employees and their families receive high-quality care.

Contact: Ed Emerman


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