America’s largest drugstore chain—#18 on the Fortune 500 list
Apparently the “CVS” stands for “convenience, value and service.” A huge organization, they report $108 billion in sales, profits of $3.5 billion and have 203,000 employees.
Since much of their profits depend on sick people buying drugs, my sense is that they might not be real keen on all of their customers getting healthy. But, on the other hand, they might be VERY keen on shaving a few hundred million off their own cost of healthcare—a number that is probably in the BILLION DOLLAR neighborhood.
Earlier this month, the CEO, Larry J. Merlo, spoke at a CEO Breakfast Forum at Northeastern University in Boston. From Northeastern’s online news site:
Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said on Tuesday…that the challenges presented by America’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape will require innovative solutions that lower costs and improve patient access to quality care.
Describing the challenges related to customer interaction, Merlo told the story of a MinuteClinic nurse practitioner who noticed a high-school athlete’s heart murmur during a routine physical and directed the family to a specialist. The boy’s mother initially questioned the finding, but the specialist’s later confirmation compelled her to write a warm letter to CVS Caremark lauding the nurse practitioner’s careful attention.
“This is just one story about what is happening out there every day, whether it’s a nurse practitioner or a pharmacist doing wonderful things that ultimately end up saving people’s lives,” Merlo said.
Saving lives? How many lives could be saved if Mr. Merlo helped ALL of his 203,000 employees learn how to take charge of their health? How many heart attacks would never happen? How many cancer cases would be prevented? And how many dollars could Mr. Merlo add to the bottom line of CVS Caremark?
Since the CVS corporate offices are only an hour’s drive from my home, I decided to write Mr. Merlo a letter and request a visit. Like my letter to the CEO of CostCo two weeks ago and my letter to the CEO of Walmart on June 21, here’s my letter that went out today via Priority Mail along with a copy of our book and a hard copy of our 4Leaf Corporate Wellness vision document. (Still no response to my 6-7-13 letter to Mr. Jelinek at CostCo)
- June 26, 2013
- Mr. Larry J. Merlo, CEO
- CVS Caremark Corporation
- Woonsocket, Rhode Island
- Subject: Slashing the cost of healthcare in businesses
Dear Mr. Merlo,
You have a reputation for being a leader that likes to innovate—and are often quoted as being proud of the strong CVS track record of health care innovation. Just last week you mentioned in your remarks at Northeastern University that “America’s rapidly evolving healthcare landscape will require innovative solutions that lower costs and improve patient access to quality care.”
As for innovation, it’s time for a prominent leader to step forward and show the world how to do some serious innovation when it comes to promoting health (vs. managing disease) in this country. We’re talking about slashing the CVS cost of healthcare by helping associates learn how to take charge of their own health. I am writing to propose a meeting with you to talk about ideas for getting that done.
Your estimated cost of healthcare. With over 200 thousand employees, I estimate that the CVS annual cost of healthcare is in the neighborhood of one billion dollars. Not only are you the largest drug retailer in the USA, you probably also have the industry’s largest healthcare bill. Lowering that bill begins with the food that we eat.
Did you know that our unhealthy food choices are driving up to 80% of the cost of healthcare in the USA? That means that you could conceivably eliminate several hundred million dollars of expense—while further enhancing your company’s already sterling reputation for innovation.
Who am I and how can I help? Although I live in southeastern Connecticut, I am originally from Mississippi. I studied Industrial Engineering at Auburn University and later earned an MBA from the University of Hawaii while on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. Since then, most of my career has been devoted to improving profitability in numerous enterprises by eliminating waste in diverse companies like Sears, ITT, and Holiday Inns. My last executive position was EVP of Operations with Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation.
So what’s that got to do with the cost of healthcare? It’s a long story that I can explain when we meet. The attached “vision” document outlines our detailed approach to helping you lower your cost of healthcare by anywhere from 15% to 50%. Those are VERY big dollars at CVS and I would like the opportunity to review our powerful new approach to corporate wellness with you in person.
As you can see from my website (hpjmh.com), I am now directing my “waste reduction” skills to a new arena, focusing on something that may be the most important issue in the history of the world. I am talking about our food choices and the collective impact that they have on our health, our cost of healthcare, our environment—and, ultimately, the long-term sustainability of the human species.
Since 1960, the cost of health care in the United States as a percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) has risen sharply from 5.2% in 1960 to the 18% that we have today. Most of this huge problem is driven by our food choices—and it’s still getting worse. I have concluded that our only way out of this mess is for the CEOs of America to take the lead. That’s because corporate CEOs are the only prominent leaders in our nation with a strong financial incentive for all of their employees to be healthy.
In developing our attached “corporate wellness” vision document, I drew heavily on the counsel of my friend Paul Allaire, the former CEO of Xerox. Now retired, he is a strong believer in the approach outlined in our book and has made it very clear to me that this kind of initiative does not have a prayer unless the top guy is driving it.
We agree. That’s why I am writing directly to you. By the way, Mr. Allaire provided the following endorsement that appears on the back cover of our book (which is attached):
“We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables—with this book, we now know why. The authors make a well-documented case for why it is important for your personal health and why it is critical for the health of the planet. A compelling book; it is both informative and a pleasure to read!” —Paul Allaire, Fortune 100 CEO (Xerox, 1990–1999)
Please take a look at the attached document; then let’s meet in person to discuss. On the last page of the enclosed document, you will see a summary of my credentials for helping you take billions of dollars a year out of your cost of health care—while yielding a healthier, happier and more productive workforce as a fringe benefit. I think your CVS customers would approve. As for the CVS emphasis on sustainability, influencing your associates to adopt plant-based eating will do more good than ALL of your current sustainability initiatives—combined.
I live in nearby Stonington, CT and am looking forward to hearing from you soon; please call me at 917-399-9700.
J. Morris (Jim) Hicks
PS: There are only two prominent CEOs (to my knowledge) who are doing anything close to resembling what I describe in the attached “vision” document. They are John Mackey at Whole Foods Market and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the City of Chicago. And, in both cases, their cost of healthcare is going down.
ATTACHMENT. 4Leaf Corporate Wellness—Vision Document
Endorsement from down under. After reading my similar letter to the CostCo CEO, my friend Philip Wollen (former Citibank top executive in Australia) sent me this note; gotta just love that second line.
You have written a powerful document. Any CEO who does not read it with a racing pulse should be fired.
At the very least, any CEO worth his/her salt should assign the task of meeting you to a key executive responsible directly to the CEO. . . . . . .with a requirement that he addresses all your issues and makes a recommendation (one way or another) to the CEO within 60 days.
Click here to hear Philip’s fiery 10-minute speech from down under—the best 10-minute summary of our international food/health/sustainability dilemma that I have ever heard.
The Bottom Line. Eventually, some of our nation’s most enlightened CEOs will embrace the 4Leaf Corporate Wellness Solution. Soon, they will begin to reap staggering savings in healthcare expenditures AND the improved productivity of a healthier workforce.
Ultimately those CEOs who don’t choose to truly promote health in the workplace will no longer be able to compete with those who do. In recent weeks, I have sent similar letters to the CEOs of CostCo and Walmart respectively. I will continue reaching out to CEOs until I find one who is ready to show America how to FIX healthcare while adding hundreds of millions of dollars to his/her bottom line.
Send this blog to the CEOs of corporations where you are a shareholder. Ultimately, they work for you. Please ask them to give me a call at 917-399-9700 or email me: email@example.com
- Master blog for corporate wellness. Slashing the cost of health care in businesses… with many videos and links to related blogs.
- My recent blog/letter to Walmart. World’s largest company. World’s largest healthcare bill.
- My recent blog/letter to CostCo. CostCo spending one billion dollars on healthcare
- John Mackey at Whole Foods. Promoting health and saving money at Whole Foods Market
- Rahm Emanuel blog. America’s fittest mayor (Chicago) goes PLANT-STRONG!
- Fixing the nation’s healthcare blog. Did you know that Obama really “gets it” about food?
- Fixing USA healthcare. The “Perfect Storm” for fixing healthcare—NOW!
- Larry J. Merlo article on the CVS website.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation