REI and Microsoft were among a handful of businesses praised today by President Obama for programs designed to make their employees healthier and keep down health-care costs.

Local companies REI and Microsoft were among a handful of businesses praised today by President Obama for programs designed to make their employees healthier and keep down health-care costs.

“You’ve got terrific innovations at companies like Microsoft, where they actually have used home visits of doctors to reduce the utilization of emergency room care and are saving themselves millions of dollars,” Obama said, according to a transcript posted on The Boston Globe’s Web site.

Director of U.S. Benefits Cecily Hall represented Microsoft during the round-table meeting at the White House. Kent-based REI was represented by its chief executive, Sally Jewell.

Obama drew laughter introducing the outdoor-oriented retailer, saying it “has to be fit since they’re a fitness company.” He noted that REI provides health insurance for part-time as well as full-time employees. “Part of the reason they’re able to do it is because they put a big emphasis on prevention and wellness,” he said.

Today is the second day in a row that Obama has highlighted health-care reform. Monday, he announced that union and health industry groups committed to reduce the health care inflation rate by 1.5 percentage points a year over 10 years.

Obama also singled out Safeway and Johnson & Johnson for holding down health-care costs by encouraging employees to exercise, stop smoking and lose weight.

A fact sheet put out by the White House mentions Microsoft’s obesity program, which assigns participants to a primary-care doctor, behavioral health specialist and nutrionist, and provides free meals based on diet recommendations.

REI, according to the White House, helps employees take up outdoor activities by offering discounts on gear and apparel purchases, free rentals, and time off.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com