How AutoZone Changes Employee Lives and Saves Millions with SurgeryPlus

Share this post:

As VP of Compensation, Benefits and HR Systems at AutoZone, Matthew Harmon is responsible for providing world-class benefits to over 23,000 employees across all 50 states.

“We call our employees AutoZoners because we really believe that it’s a culture, and our values are all about caring for people and really demonstrating those values every day,” Harmon says.

Harmon loves helping AutoZoners on an individual level when possible. However, as more employees approached him with questions about complex surgical processes, he knew he needed to find a way to simplify the experience for all AutoZoners.

“Surgery is complicated. It’s expensive. It’s a journey,” Harmon says. “It’s difficult for our employees to understand the process, and they need help.”

In 2017, leadership tasked Harmon with finding a solution to help AutoZoners navigate complex surgical situations. Many AutoZoners earn an hourly wage, so the solution also needed to be affordable. Increasing their premiums was out of the question.

“They didn’t have access to great surgeons and networks,” Harmon says. “Covering a surgery out of pocket is prohibitively expensive, and it might mean they don’t get the surgery they need.”

With AutoZoners located across the country, they needed the solution to work at scale.

“We have 23,000 employees, if we don’t have coverage for our people in those areas, then they’re not going to use the service,” Harmon says. “And a service that’s great but doesn’t get utilized doesn’t create results.”

Finally, Harmon says the solution needed to mesh with AutoZone’s culture and values.

“I needed a partner I could trust that would deliver the same level of service I would if I was working one to one with an AutoZoner to help them through the situation,” Harmon says.

Finding a partner in SurgeryPlus

Harmon says SurgeryPlus by Employer Direct Healthcare offered the best solution for lowering costs, reaching all employees and providing care navigation and support.

SurgeryPlus covers all out-of-pocket surgical costs for members. AutoZone waives the deductible to remove remaining cost barriers and make it a truly frictionless experience.

Members can schedule procedures at leading surgical sites within the SurgeryPlus network. Nationwide coverage places 98% of SurgeryPlus members within driving distance of their surgeon.

“We’ve found that if it’s local, you’re eight times more likely to utilize it,” Harmon says. “That’s a huge number when you think about the number of surgeries that are performed across a large organization like AutoZone.”

EDH’s surgeon review process screens for training, outcomes, protocols and more so only the most qualified surgeons are included. Clients pay less because EDH negotiates rates 50%+ lower than carrier rates on average, significantly lowering surgical costs for employers.

“We spend about half of what we would spend as a company on surgeries, getting top-quality surgeons that get better outcomes, that have lower readmission rates to hospitals and lower complication rates,” Harmon says.

EDH’s one-on-one care advocates were another reason AutoZone chose SurgeryPlus. The advocate schedules appointments, coordinates lodging and provides financial assistance for food and travel needs.

“The care advocates make something that would be otherwise very complicated and stressful, easy. And that’s what we’re really after for our population,” Harmon says.

“We spend 50 cents on the dollar”

As a self-insured employer, lowering surgical costs was a key priority for AutoZone. Since 2017, the company has saved over $14 million from 848 completed procedures.

“We spend 50 cents on the dollar for each of those surgeries,” Harmon says. “That’s just pure savings. And when we spend less, we don’t have to raise rates every year. That’s a big deal for our people.”

Harmon says he was initially surprised how much the benefit enhances the employee experience, while boosting talent recruitment and retention for AutoZone.

“We’ve seen AutoZoners say things on social media like, ‘Isn’t it great to work for an employer that still cares about their people and offers these types of high-touch benefits,”’ he says. “Our core value is to care about people, so SurgeryPlus really demonstrates that we’re taking care of our people in their time of need.”

Impacting Employee Lives

Beyond the savings, Harmon says SurgeryPlus makes a considerable impact on their employees’ quality of life.

“We had a 37-year-old AutoZoner who had double knee replacement,” Harmon says. “Before the surgery, he was hobbling around the store and perched up on a cart in order to service customers. Now, he’s able to gallop around the store and he attributes it all to AutoZone and SurgeryPlus.”

Harmon says positively changing employee lives also benefits the culture at AutoZone.

“There were two AutoZone owners on social media talking about how they had gastric bypass surgery, and what really hit me is they mentioned how great this was,” Harmon says. “To have our people saying things like ‘Isn’t it great that an employer offers something like this,’ and then to have another AutoZoner jump into the same feed and say, ‘Wow, what a great experience. It’s been life-changing.’”

In another story, Harmon says an employee lost his father and sister to diabetes, and the employee also faced serious risk. The employee wanted to be there for his family, so he made a deal with his spouse to pursue gastric bypass surgery.

“It was hugely emotional, and it was very clear this wasn’t about dollars or cents, this was about impacting someone’s life and really changing their life. And again, they associated that with something provided by AutoZone,” Harmon says.

Expanding the partnership with Cancer Care Direct

What began as a bold idea has turned into a seven-year partnership between AutoZone and Employer Direct Healthcare.

Leadership recently asked Harmon to find a solution to help employees navigate cancer diagnosis and treatment, while ensuring access to the best facilities and providers. Again, he turned to EDH.

“We went with Cancer Care Direct because we know hands down our people are going to get the best absolute chance at beating cancer, and the AutoZone family is going to support them all the way,” Harmon says.

The Cancer Care Direct program connects employees with end-to-end care navigation, top-rated care teams and accelerated access to NCI-designated centers and local clinics.

Personal care navigators engage the employee after diagnosis and help them feel confident they’re receiving the best possible medical care and the most appropriate treatment plan. When necessary, the navigator can order a second-opinion review and ensure treatment follows the latest standard-of-care guidelines.

“If I’m truly helping our population, I have to bring in a partner, and again it’s the same thing with SurgeryPlus as with Cancer Care Direct,” Harmon says. “You can scale this great solution and make a huge impact on peoples’ lives, and maybe their survivability. Being able to act quickly can be the difference between stage two and stage four.”

“The type of partner you want”

When it ultimately comes down to selecting a center of excellence partner, Harmon says benefits leaders should consider three factors when vetting providers.

  • Can you measure results?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it deliver positive outcomes?

Beyond meeting all three benchmarks, Harmon also credits the long-term success of the partnership to EDH’s willingness to continuously develop innovative solutions for AutoZone.

“They’re looking to continuously improve. When you think about a long-term partner, that’s the type of partner you want, because you can pick them today and then be able to grow with them,” Harmon says.

Ready to provide your employees with access to excellent care? Get in touch with us.

Get Free Shipping On Orders Over $50

Are you a member?

To get you to the right place, click the link below to indicate whether you are a member of SurgeryPlus or Cancer Care Direct.

Let’s Connect

Please fill out the contact form so the right person can be in touch quickly. Or Reach Us at 855-200-2099

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.