SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Focusing on improving the medical care their employees receive while reducing costs to employees, Walmart, Lowe's and other large employers joined the Pacific Business Group on Health Negotiating Alliance (PBGH-NA) to launch a national Employers Centers of Excellence Network (ECEN) that will offer no-cost knee and hip-replacement surgeries for employees at four hospital systems in the United States. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131008/PH93380LOGO ) "These companies are working to help make sure that their employees get higher quality care and incur lower costs," said David Lansky, president and chief executive officer of PBGH. "The Employers Centers of Excellence Network is designed to serve as a model for delivering high quality health care with transparent and predictable costs." The four designated center of excellence health care organizations include Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.; Kaiser Permanente Orange County Irvine Medical Center in Irvine, Calif.; Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo.; and Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. PBGH, working with health care management company Health Design Plus, will oversee the new national Employers Centers of Excellence Network, which will include treatment for knee and hip replacement surgeries for the more than 1.5 million employees and their dependents enrolled in Walmart's, Lowe's and other large employer's medical plans. Employees will receive consultations and care covered at 100 percent without deductible or coinsurance, plus travel, lodging and living expenses for the patient and a caregiver. Patients must be healthy enough to travel for the surgeries. The program is voluntary and employees or their covered dependents can still choose to receive care from local providers and incur routine costs. "This national program is about providing our associates with exceptional care and reducing their medical costs so that they pay nothing out of pocket when they use one of the designated facilities," said Sally Welborn, senior vice president of global benefits at Walmart. "Each of these providers has a proven record of practicing evidence-based medicine with above average positive patient outcomes in knee and hip replacement procedures." "Under this program, employees and their dependents covered under Lowe's medical plan have access to medical care at renowned medical facilities at no cost," said Randy Moon, Lowe's vice president of international human resources, benefits and human resources information systems. "This is especially important for our employees who live in areas underserved by high quality health care providers. The four health care centers are located throughout the U.S., making it easier for employees who wish to use this benefit to travel." The national Employers Centers of Excellence Network complements Centers of Excellence programs that Walmart and Lowe's have and will continue to offer separately from the alliance with PBGH-NA.