Retailers, consumers and prices
Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz says the coffee chain now pays almost as much for employee health care as it does for coffee beans, so the company long-known for its generous health benefits will begin passing more of those costs to employees.
The news from Starbucks comes amid skyrocketing U.S. health-care costs that are forcing American companies large and small to hike employee health-care contributions, cut back on coverage, or eliminate it altogether.
U.S. health care spending consumes 16 percent of GDP, about $2.2 trillion a year, and is projected to rise to 25 percent of GDP by 2025. But while the U.S. spends more than any other country on health care, its residents aren’t among the world’s healthiest. Some 46 million Americans are uninsured.
President Barack Obama says a broad health care overhaul is critical to a U.S. economic recovery. Congress is not expected to pass any reforms until after Labor Day.
Only 2.3 percent of American families, or nearly 3.4 million families, had used a retail clinic, according to the group’s 2007 Health Tracking Household Survey.
Check out the quarterly results at Walgreen, one of the largest U.S. drugstore operators.
The company posted a 2 percent increase in quarterly profit, amid a weak U.S. economy and slowing growth in sales of prescription drugs — in the reported quarter, Zyrtec was switched to over-the-counter status.
Check out McDonald’s Corp’s long-awaited switch to trans fat-free cooking oil in the United States and Canada.
Jim Skinner, CEO at the Golden Arches, said the world’s largest hamburger chain finished dumping the oil with artery-clogging trans fats during the last few months. Speaking to investors at the company’s annual meeting, he also promised that pies and other baked goods would also be trans fat-free by year end.
The drug store chain took a big step toward expanding beyond its retail business by announcing it planned to buy two health-care companies, publicly traded I-trax and privately held Whole Health Management.
The retailer has created a health and wellness division to manage health centers and pharmacies at worksites. Walgreen already operates consumer clinics in some of its stores, but now it sees a big opportunity to help companies lower their health costs.