Rx for slashing the cost of healthcare at CVS

America’s largest drugstore chain—#18 on the Fortune 500 list

CVS logoApparently 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.

Mr. Merlo speaking at Northeastern University

Mr. Merlo speaking at Northeastern University

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

CVS peopleDear 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.

Corporate Wellness. The 4Leaf vision of a whole new ballgame

Corporate Wellness. The 4Leaf vision of a whole new ballgame

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

Phillip Wollen---argues in Australia for taking meat off the menu.

Phillip Wollen—one of Australia’s most prominent citizens (former Citibank to exec)

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.

Dear Jim,

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.

Philip Wollen

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: jmorrishicks@me.com

Mr. Merlo was named the 2013 March of Dimes Citizen of the Year in Rhode Island. With a mission of "saving babies," nothing could be more important than starting them out eating the right food for our species.

Mr. Merlo was named the 2013 March of Dimes Citizen of the Year in Rhode Island. With a mission of “saving babies,” nothing could be more important than starting them out eating the right food for our species.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

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 jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.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

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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1 Response to Rx for slashing the cost of healthcare at CVS

  1. Sal Liggieri says:

    Jim, These letters you send to the CEO’s of different companies are very powerful in their message. What if none of them respond? What would be your next course of action?

    And even if one does respond and believes in your message, how does he communicate this to his workers.

    I’m asking this because of my experience with my family. I’m the patriarch of the family and I have been talking PFBD to them for over thirty years. I have given them the articles; I have bought them the books; I have given them the DVD’s. In all this time, all of them are either fat or obese, and with all kinds of medical problems . . . not one of the thirty family members have been influenced by my lifestyle. They would rather do it their way. So they blissfully march on in their ignorance to oblivion, never to know what good health is all about.

    I have given up.

    What magic can a CEO use to convince his employees to change . . . good health wasn’t enough for my family . . . will it be enough in a corporate setting?

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