Health Care Reform - Full Article

As you are probably aware, I wrote an Op/Ed piece that was published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week on health care reform, one of the biggest and most emotional issues facing our country. I was asked to write an Op/Ed piece and I gave my personal opinions. While I am in favor of health care reform, Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position on the issue.

 

In answer to President Obama's invitation to all Americans to put forward constructive ideas for reforming our health care system, I wrote this Op/Ed piece called simply "Health Care Reform." An editor at the Journal rewrote the headline to call it "Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare," which led to antagonistic feelings by many. That was not my intention - in fact, I do not mention the President at all in this piece.

 

I fully realize that there are many opinions on the healthcare debate, including inside my own company. As we, as a nation, continue to discuss this, I am hopeful that both sides can do so in a civil manner that will lead to positive change for all concerned. You are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section below. (Just remember our comment guidelines prohibit vulgarity and personal attacks.)

 

Here is the original unedited version that I submitted.

 

Health Care Reform

 

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money" —Margaret Thatcher.

 

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people's money. These deficits are simply not sustainable and they are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation or they will bankrupt us.

 

While we clearly need health care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and moves us much closer to a complete governmental takeover of our health care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the exact opposite direction-toward less governmental control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:

 

1. Remove the legal obstacles which slow the creation of high deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts. The combination of high deductible health insurance and Health Savings Accounts is one solution that could solve many of our health care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high deductible health insurance plan, and provides up to $1,800 per year in additional health care dollars through deposits into their own Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness. Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of team member satisfaction.

 

2. Change the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have exactly the same tax benefits. Right now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible for employers but private health insurance is not. This is unfair.

 

3. Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that health insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable everywhere.

 

4. Repeal all government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance many billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual health insurance customer preferences and not through special interest lobbying.

 

5. Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors into paying insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are ultimately being passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

 

6. Make health care costs transparent so that consumers will understand what health care treatments cost. How many people know what their last doctor's visit cost? What other goods or services do we as consumers buy without knowing how much they will cost us? We need a system where people can compare and contrast costs and services.

 

7. Enact Medicare reform: we need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and move towards greater patient empowerment and responsibility.

 

8. Permit individuals to make voluntary tax deductible donations on their IRS tax forms to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP or any other government program.

 

Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals. While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America.

 

Even in countries such as Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by governmental bureaucrats what health care treatments and medicines they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce and expensive treatments. Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million citizens. At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund on their behalf. Our Canadian and British team members express their benefit preferences very clearly-they want supplemental health care more than additional paid time off, larger donations to their retirement plans, or greater food discounts; they want health care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health care benefit dollars to spend if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear: no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K. or in any other country.

 

Rather than increase governmental spending and control, what we need to do is address the root causes of disease and poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for their own health. Unfortunately many of our health care problems are self-inflicted with over 2/3 of Americans now overweight and 1/3 obese. Most of the diseases which are both killing us and making health care so expensive-heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, which account for about 70% of all health care spending, are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal or no alcohol consumption, and other healthy lifestyle choices.

American Diet

Over the past two decades, breakthrough scientific research by Colin Campbell, as documented in his book The China Study, and clinical medical experiences by many doctors including Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, John McDougall, Joel Fuhrman, and Neal Barnard have shown that a diet consisting of whole foods which are plant-based, nutrient dense, and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most of the degenerative diseases that are killing us, and becoming more and more expensive to treat through drugs and surgery. We should be able to live healthy and largely disease free lives until we are well into our 90's and even past 100 years of age.

 

Health care reform in America is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible and that we have the freedom to choose our own doctors and the health care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our personal lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society.

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4666 comments

Comments

Marla Simons says …

<p>I was so incensed by Mr. Mackay's 'let them eat cake' attitude that I wrote a comment to the Whole Foods Corp. on their website. They kindly responded with a summary of their health coverage pertaining to their own employees. I then researched Mr. Mackay's op-ed reprint on this site. First, I think I remember that during the political campaign Pres. Obama was criticized for shopping for arugula, something too elite for the everyday consumer. I was appalled then and I am appalled now, your target group is the consumer drawn to 'green, organic and environmental choices. I hate to tell you this but those are liberal minded citizens. Case in point my husband and I left a lexus dealership because they didn't want to be bothered with 'cash for clunkers', however another lexus dealer welcomed our business and were more than happy to sell us our new vehicle. We are one of those who are concerned not just for our own well being but for all Americans. So we won't shop at Whole Foods, like we won't buy products from advertisers who appear on Glen Beck's program. If we won't be heard as voters in support of private AND public health care for all, then we will be heard with our purchasing dollars. You're missing your market.</p>

Chris says …

<p>We had bad produce from your store the last three weeks in a row. We've basically given up on the raspberries. Now we learn that you're just another out-of-touch CEO. The reason there area mandates on coverage is that health insurers keep writing plans that buried coverage limitations in the fine print so that when people actually needed insurance it wasn't there. Read Sarah Wildman's article in Slate:<br><a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://www.doublex.com/section/news-politics/health-insurance-woes-my-22000-bill-having-baby" rel="nofollow">http://www.doublex.com/section/news-politics/health-insurance-woes-my-22000-bill-having-baby</a> While I'm sure you have an army of lawyers and actuaries to read through and score these plans, most of do not and must rely on the government to protect our interest. Consumer driven health care is a conservative fantasy. Deciding whether one needs a procedure or test is very hard -that's why we rely on doctors. Deciding to buy a 5$/pound tomato is easy. This wholefood shopper will be taking his money elsewhere.</p>

Anonymous says …

<p>This is just plain bad management. You are risking a nation-wide boycott of your brand, which will drive sales down and reduce profit for your stockholders.</p> <p>Are you trying to weasel yourself into the GOP's political morass?</p>

Panctant says …

<p>That quote from Margaret Thacher is ridiculous. The problem with socialism is that it makes the filthy rich 1% less better off and it makes the poor 50% more better off. America has the highest disparity of all time between rich and poor, greater than that during the great depression. What I see here is an ultra rich guy who has unlimited wealth telling the poor to go to hell. When I pay $4 for an Orange, I expect that the company will be able to provide for it's workers. I don't expect the CEO to spend his time lobbying in the wall street journal to ensure that the poor continue to be screwed by the mega wealthy. I might still shop at the store, but maybe not, but now I'm leaning towards Central Market.</p>

Ben L. says …

<p>'This 'right' has never existed in America.' As far as you are concerned, it should never exist. Your statement on health care has shown me a side of WholeFoods, Inc. I've never seen before, a negative one. I'm going to shop Trader Joe's from now on. I don't want my money to fund your politics. If it had been up to you, Medicare would never have been enacted.</p>

Pam Snell says …

<p>You need to attempt to get private healthcare. Local farmers that you so strongly advocate are being denied private healthcare.If you don't own your home you can get medicaid but there is no safety net for the middle class. I find you to be like all members of the ceo class not grounded in reality.Even with an extremely healthy lifestyle cancer can nail your family- go to your local cancer hospital and see all the fit people with it.We have all been exposed to horrible chemicals in our air &amp; water.We need access to health ins.</p>

Diane Paull says …

<p>While some of your ideas are supportive of the health care debate they do not dismiss the need for some option of universal health care. For those who have no insurance you have not offered any option. What happens to your employees after they leave Whole Foods. If they have some health care issues they become immediately uninsurable and regardless of your political point of view ' these are the people that end up at the emergency room and we end up paying for their health care in the most expensive way.<br> And no matter how many times people say we have the best health care in the world there is no information to support that myth. Most world assessments put us somewhere in the down in the list of health in the thirties.<br> While I agree that we as a country should focus on health and prevention not providing health care does not address that either.</p>

Gordon says …

<p>You have gained a customer here. I will go out of my way to shop at WF.</p> <p>Everyone is vilifying private insurance, yet, like the housing bubble and credit crunch, they are created, if not encouraged, by foolish government policies and regulations.</p> <p>There are many reasons that private insurance is in need of reform, and you touched on a few of them very clearly in your op-ed.</p> <p>People who complain about denied coverage or the price of their premiums have no recourse. Thanks to idiotic tax laws that drive employers to provide insurance to their employees, the market has been perverted. The individual market hardly exists and it is prohibitively expensive.</p> <p>Free the market and you'll increase coverage. How on earth can anyone believe that free market principles have anything to do with the status quo American healthcare system? For example, one, 1!, insurance company controls 55% of the healthcare dollars in the state of Connecticut. And thanks to stupid federal laws, we aren't allowed to buy insurance directly from a company outside of the state we live in.</p> <p>So, we're stuck with our employer's plans, if we're lucky enough to be employed by a corporation that can circumvent the silly interstate commerce restriction and strike a deal with a big insurance company.</p> <p>There is so much in need of reform, but putting a so-called 'public' option in play is going to do nothing but either ratchet up costs or drive down options.</p> <p>We hear plenty of people talking about healthcare as a fundamental right. What does that mean? What does the term healthcare mean to people who think this way? Is it just enough care to keep you alive? To keep you well? Where does personal responsibility end and public responsibility begin? There are so many twists and turns and moral questions to be addressed in a declaration so broad as calling healthcare a right.</p> <p>We've done things similar to this public option mindset with education. Isn't education another fundamental right? I don't think anyone wants healthcare to be handled the way we have handled education over the last 50 years, do we? Sure, some 'public schools' are fantastic. But some are awful. Mediocrity is more likely the order of the day for most. But we seem to tolerate it; after all, we don't measure deaths from a lack of education. I can't imagine we'll tolerate the same sort of results in healthcare.</p>

c says …

<p>I for one cannot in good conscience support a business whose CEO's views on an ongoing national debate are so diametrically opposed to mine. Mr. Mackey is entitled to his opinion on the matter, and the last thing I want is for him to hold back. The op-ed was a risk, and he will live with any consequences. </p> <p>Like previous posters, I believe that you and your company's communications department are being disengenous about the op-ed's motivation; one does not invoke the words 'socialism' in this day in age without blatantly attempting to stir the pot. The more I think about it, the more I believe the piece was an exercise in expanding his company's customer base past the arguably progressive clientele that Whole Foods has and maybe will continue to enjoy.</p> <p>If that is indeed the case, I wish Mr. Mackey and his company luck with his new-found customer base.</p>

Gordon says …

<p>There is so much in need of reform, but putting a so-called 'public' option in play is going to do nothing but either ratchet up costs or drive down options.</p> <p>Did I use either/or? It will likely do both.</p>

Sean says …

<p>Health care is expensive mostly because of government cotrol and intervention. Tax subsidies, regulation, and public financing lead people to make decisions they otherwise wouldn't make. </p> <p>More federal government involvement is a problem masquerading as a solution. Thanks for your good ideas Mr. Mackey.</p>

Tom Chappell says …

<p>It's certainly your right as an individual to express your views, but it was inappropriate for you to do so while associated with Whole Foods. I loved shopping there, but won't be returning while you're still at the helm.</p>

T Hudson says …

<p><strong>flaming</strong> You better stock up on pork skins and cheese whiz in your stores, with all the new right-wing customers you're getting.</p> <p>I'll spend my liberal dollars elsewhere.</p>

Peter says …

<p>My wife and I have been shopping at Whole Foods for some years now. We are also self-employed, and are having difficulty paying health insurance on our own. When the HMO got to be as high as our mortgage, we dropped it and bought catastrophic coverage, which means we now pay our own medical bills. If the sworn enemies of the USA (prisoners at Gitmo) get free health care, on my taxpayer dime, I don't see anything wrong with hardworking citizens having the same option. I don't see anyone in Congress complaining about the coverage they receive. I assume Mr. Mackey will also work hard along with his insurance company-owned right wing legislators to repeal Medicare. As long as insurance companies line the pockets of legislators, there will never be reform in this country. It is common knowledge that we are the only industrialized nation without universal health care. So, ALL of those other countries got it wrong? Yes, they have their issues. Filing bankruptcy to pay medical bills isn't one of them. The American Health Care System shall continue. It's called 'Don't Get Sick.' Since we no longer intend to put one penny of our hard-earned cash into the pocket of a right wing Palinista who will never know what it is like to struggle to pay health costs, we will never set foot in Whole Foods again. Ever. Since most of the comments here are praising the rich CEO who has no health care worries, I doubt this will be posted.</p>

WFfan says …

<p>I don't agree with your list, because personal responsibility only covers a tiny fraction of the problem, but I do appreciate that your position was manipulated in the WSJ. Thank you for clarifying.</p> <p>Now, a little personal info to tell you why I don't buy the argument that the fundamental problem lies with individuals not making good choices for themselves.</p> <p>I had health insurance (perfect health record) right after college. It cost as much as my rent. After a while, I simply couldn't afford that any longer, despite having few other expenses (no car, vegetarian diet, etc.). When I was starting a family, I applied for catastrophic-only coverage. I was turned down with the written excuse that there was 'the possibility that I might become infertile in future''¦.when I was 4 months pregnant with my oldest child. No, the policy wouldn't have covered maternity care or infertility services anyway. The next insurance company I applied to told me that their office staff knew better than my doctor on how to read medical test results (I'd had a false positive on a test, which was confirmed as false repeatedly by subsequent tests), so I couldn't get catastrophic-only coverage from them either. I finally got catastrophic-only coverage after I allowed an insurance agency to test my genes to make sure I would never in my life have medical problems that could be predicted.</p> <p>I would have to pay $10,000 in medical costs per family member per year before our insurance would kick in, over and above the insurance premiums themselves.</p> <p>We barely see our doctors except for annual visits because we're all so healthy (fortunately), so we pay the full cost of our medical care, plus insurance.</p> <p>I've only had one job in my life that offered health insurance. As you know, most smaller companies can't afford it.</p> <p>Based on all this, how exactly can *I* be more responsible? And why is there nothing about corporate responsibility on your list?</p> <p>These are two serious questions. I believe they are fundamental to the issue.</p>

Peter Alson says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>Interesting business strategy: take a successful company with a customer base that is largely Democratic and socially responsible, and attempt to abruptly switch it for a customer base that is largely Republican and socially self-interested. Sort of like switching sides of the road that you drive on at midnight of an appointed date, as they did, I believe, in Scotland. Good luck with that. You have certainly lost my business. But I do have to say I admire your ballsiness, however misguided. By the way, you are right about the need for Americans to change their diet from one of processed foods to whole foods, but you neglect to factor in a major reason for that diet: economic inequality (whole foods are too expensive for most of the population) and a food industry (of which you are part) that is driven above all else by bottom line profit motive, not by the quality of the food they sell or by the well-being of the planet. Your company has been better than some, in that regard, but based upon what you just wrote it seems that social responsibility and personal responsibility are interchangeable concepts. I've got news for you: they're not. It's never too late to evolve, but I have to say that at this point I think you've dug yourself a pretty deep hole in that regard.</p>

David Rutschman says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>Thank you for adding your voice to the debate on health care reform in this country. I was especially struck by the following lines:</p> <p>Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals. While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. </p> <p>I disagree deeply with the position you've outlined here. Access to quality healthcare, like access to clean air and water, an adequate education, safety, and (yes) food, are fundamental human rights. I've shopped at Whole Foods every week for years, but I won't be spending my family's money in your stores any longer. The position you put forward'that access to health care should be based on being able to afford it, and that those who lack the means to pay for treatment should do without'lacks compassion and insight into the lives of others. A healthy and vibrant culture takes care of its sickest and weakest, and is proud to do so.</p> <p>I will no longer spend money in your stores.</p> <p>Regards,<br> David Rutschman<br> Providence, RI</p>

Bill says …

<p><strong>flaming</strong> Mackey is typical of the CEOs in AMerica who got rich by selling to liberals and progressives. Behind the scenes they are always working to hurt the very people they are selling to. </p> <p>Just like the Waltons of WalMart. Always pushing for legislation (and buying it) that hurts working people and poor people.</p> <p>Why make these class warfare ruling elite any richer?</p> <p>Buy from your local farmer's market.</p>

LUCY BOSWORTH says …

<p>You aboslutely have the right to voice your comments and you may in fact have a few seeds of good ideas, but to begin with imflamatory rhetoric like 'socialism?' Well, you lost the argument. There is nothing in any proposed bills that can remotely be called socialist. A single payer system, which is not in any bills, isn't even socialist ' so I'm not sure why you and others are even bringing up the canard of socialism, except as the wosrt kind of rhetorical tool. I am sorry that you do not fully understand what millions of Americans are going through and as a business man don't understand the pulse of your customers. I will now exercise my right to choose my retailer. You have lost a weekly customer.</p>

Rob Z says …

<p>While a healthy diet can prevent a multitude of health issues, it does nothing to stop accidents that require health care. I believe you and your company would have been better off staying out of the debate.</p> <p>Former employee and Sunflower Market shopper.</p>

Kim Costello says …

<p>Thank you! After your op/ed I read some comments and one in particular struck me. It expressed anger at you for voicing your own opinion/beliefs rather than the majority 'of your shoppers'. Funny since I doubt this individual polled all WF shoppers to determine what the majority believes. And ' also funny (odd, pathetic) that this person thinks you should stifle your personal beliefs. It's called free speech and I'm glad to see any one (even CEO's) express it ' even if I don't agree'¦as long as I can express mine. Which is ' there is a WFM in our city. Not as close as 2 other markets but I WILL make an effort to shop at WF in order to show my support for you, your company, and for free speech! Thank-you!</p>

Beverly Huffman says …

<p><strong>off topic</strong> Dear Mr. Mackey,<br> We appreciate the fact that you are speaking out.<br> Recently many companies pulled their ads during the Glenn Beck show on fox stating that their standards did not match that of Mr. Becks. The American people love Glenn Beck because he is one of few that will tell it truthfully to the American people. I would like to suggest that perhaps you pick up an ad campaign during his time slot on fox, I believe you will see growth to your business beyond your wildest expectations, because mr. Becks ratings are soaring, and people of America are mad as heck at the way we are being lead down a path we don't want to go with money we don't have. please consider my suggestion, Thank You, Beverly Huffman</p>

Marilyn Riley says …

<p>I was one of more than 100 attorneys fired by the the former San Diego City Attorney, who subsequently lost his reelection campaign. Unfortunately, I was 60 when he fired me, and I discovered that the job market for elderly women attorneys is not very good. </p> <p>Thankfully, for three years I was able to take advantage of COBRA, which is expensive enough. However, I now pay $660.00 for health insurance through AARP. I am grateful that I am able to pay this outrageous amount plus my high co-pays. However, because I am a patriot and a decent person, I worry about the people who cannot afford to buy their own insurance.</p> <p>I have worked hard and been a good citizen all my life. For years I have exercised every day; I have never smoked or used illegal drugs, and I do not drink. I always wear my seat belt; I am not overweight, and I have been a vegetarian for the past 40 years. On June 1, 2010, I will finally be eligible for Medicare, whose enactment, like that of Social Security, was strongly opposed by Republicans.</p> <p>I am amazed to learn that you are a proponent of the vicious kind of capitalism that has taken over our country. I wonder what people like you would say to people in my situation who cannot afford to pay $660.00 a month for their health insurance.</p> <p>For years I have been a Whole Foods customer and have always enjoyed going into my local store. Even though your prices are higher than those in larger stores, I chose to shop at Whole Foods. Sadly, I must now choose not to.</p>

martin hobbs says …

<p>Most of the people who shop at whole foods are well off financially[myself included] and can afford any type of health insurance, so our opinion is worthless. As to european socialized medicine, most of what Mr. Mackey spews is second hand rhetoric. I lived in europe for ten years and can personally attest to the very high quality care with reasonably speedy service. When it comes to boycotting retail stores, every day is election day. Mr. mackey may be asking for some bail out money soon.</p>

Barb says …

<p>John, you have wrecked your company. Not only with this idiotic move. But now many more of your customers are learning about your business tactics and they just don't like them. Bet you thought the Wild Oats scandal just faded away. But it didn't really.</p> <p>All of the little independents are now more unified against you then ever before. We are encouraging our customers to Boycott. You've given us the ammunition.</p> <p>You will certainly have to downsize. But at least the shoppers in your remaining stores will be of your same mindset. You can spend your shift hours commiserating.</p>

Realist says …

<p>There is a Whole Foods a couple miles away from my house in Southeast Portland (Oregon). I've never shopped there (there are alternative supermarkets closer to my house), but I will be doing all my shopping at Whole Foods while this boycott persists.</p>

Jim says …

<p>I'm proud to be a Whole Foods Team Member.</p>

George Holmes says …

<p>I supported Whole Foods before, now even stronger with a CEO who is not afraid to speak out even on controversial subjects, that is the beautfy of our American right of free speech, though I do not 100% agree with 100% of the points he raises, I wholly support his position in general, and his courage to raise his position in a public forum thanks again, and well I will be seen in Whole Foods a 'lot' more now</p>

Rurik says …

<p>Sorry, sir, but anyone who so casually throws out the term 'socialism' is part of the problem and not part of the solution. I appreciate your comments, but still cannot take you seriously. I will be boycotting your overpriced store until universal health care with a public option is the standard for all Americans and not just the rich and the politicians.</p>

J Novess says …

<p>I'll have to drive a little bit further to get to Trader Joes, but that is where I will be doing my shopping from now on Mr. Mackey. It's unfortunate that you cannot see the benefits in a system that the rest of the developed world has embraced.</p> <p>It must be comforting to see legions of Back and Limbaugh fans coming forth to defend you, but you well know that these are not the people who are your regular customers, and that their support doesn't extend much beyond posting insults on the internet.</p> <p>Your main demographic was progressive liberals, educated enough to afford your overpriced goods. That support was given out of the idea that you were doing something good, now it's clear you do not really hold those ideals.</p> <p>No more of my money will go to Whole Foods until you are gone Mr Mackey.</p>

John says …

<p>Great Article!!! I'm glad someone is making some sense in this healthcare debate!</p>

Tom Rooster says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey:</p> <p>You certainly have every right to express your opinion on health care reform, even if that opinion is little more than the discredited talking points of the Republican party, which your WSJ points, for the most part, echo. What I find utterly distasteful and shameful though is your invoking such dishonest canards as 'socialism' and the Canadian and UK systems, which none of the current proposals in Congress resemble in the least, to bolster your arguments. </p> <p>I live but a stone's throw from your flagship store in Austin. I have often brought visitors to our city to the store as point of pride. No longer. I will be joining the thousands who intend to stop giving Whole Foods their business. There is no excuse or room for dishonesty and scare mongering in democratic debate. </p> <p>Most of the arguments as to why your proposals are not an adequate solution to the health care crisis we face have already been set forth in other comments hear. I urge you to read them and to read more on this topic. </p> <p>I would like to address your comments regarding free markets and the Constitution with regard to health care. They seem to demonstrate both a lack of understanding of the Constitution and the limits and efficiencies of markets. You stated:</p> <p>'Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America.'</p> <p>It's really time we got beyond the argument of whether health care is a 'right' or not and whether it is in the constitution, as if that has any bearing whatsoever on the issue. It is a red herring raised by right-wingers to distract from the real debate.</p> <p>That the reasons, generally, that 'governments are instituted among men' is to secure their 'inalienable rights' does not mean that governments can only act where fundamental individual rights are concerned. Rather their limits to act are defined by the 'just powers' derived from the 'consent of the governed.' In granting power to this federal government 220 years ago, we the people, did so in order that it, explicitly, might act to 'promote the general welfare.' It has done so in innumerable ways since its founding that have nothing to do with whether an individual or 'constitutional' right was implicated.</p> <p>You mention that health care is not mentioned in the constitution. Neither is radio and TV broadcast licensing, food inspection, air traffic control, nor a myriad of other things not contemplated by our founders. Neither is the free market, by the way. Or capitalism. </p> <p>So when should the government act to promote the general welfare? One could argue whenever the people decide it should. But that skirts the deeper philosophical issue. I think it's safe to say that government should step in when markets fail. And traditionally that has been the valued role of government in our society for many years. And its a good and noble role.</p> <p>One place where the free market has utterly failed is in health care coverage. Under your definition, Mr. Mackey, Medicare would be a socialist form of health care and therefore, by definition, bad, I assume. Do you honestly believe that the free market would provide affordable health care coverage for our citizens over 65? Those who are entering the most costly phase of their health care coverage lives? What insurance company would pick up coverage on such a risk pool except at some altogether unaffordable premium rate?</p> <p>Don't get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the free market. But I also believe government must act to promote the general welfare when markets fail. Insurance is not at all like food and shelter and that is why 'voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges' do not do a good job of allocating goods and services in this industry (47 million uninsured). You deal in the commodity of food. The more food you push through your system to your customer, the higher your profits. More goods sold equals more money made. Same with 'shelter' (housing). If I sell houses, the more I sell the more money make. Good for both of us. </p> <p>In the health insurance industry, on the other hand, the road to higher profits depends on delivering less. My incentive to drive up my profits is to deny coverage for specific procedures for those I have insured and avoid insuring higher risk patients altogether. Not a good outcome for the consumer. And clearly an arena where the free market simply cannot allocate services in an efficient and beneficial way.</p> <p>Like so many libertarians, you let ideology stand in the way to good, common sense governance. You ideology has not cost you my business, my dollars, but your dishonest presentation certainly has. I wish you luck. You're going to need it.</p>

Patty Soandso says …

<p><strong>flaming/attack</strong> Firstly, I was digusted and actually hurt to near tears to read that Mr. Mackey quoted the likes of Margaret Thatcher (aka 'Milk Snatcher' as she was once called in the UK) and a quote of hers which truly illustrated the 'I got mine, you go to hell' Tory idealogy. </p> <p>Why I felt so betrayed and hurt that the CEO of my favorite supermarket would take the position that he did with respect to health care reform and do so in that pipe organ of all things Ruport Murdock-like and neo-conservative (god, I hate that term) really shouldn't have been a surprise to me.</p> <p>I mean, isn't Whole Foods a member of the National Retail Federation (NRF) along with the infamous Starbucks ' the avowed enemy of anything pro-employee, pro-union, pro benefits, despite their false PR campaign touting otherwise? </p> <p>And wasn't it the NRF that got all up in WalMart's 'grill' what that retail giant wrote POTUS back in June stating their SUPPORT of health care reform?</p> <p>Why I was shocked and hurt, I can't imagine.</p> <p>Had Mr. Mackey chosen to chime in on the health care reform debate by constructively indicating the the bloody-minded mobs carrying disgusting and frightening images of the President of the United State of America and spewing hatred and vitriol with respect to his and the Speaker of the House being both Nazis and Socialists at the same time (seriously conflicting ideologies, btw, as 'socialism' therein, or, in German, 'Nationalsozialismus' or 'National Socialism' comes from the citizen-nation relationship, whereby the term is meant to be realized through the common duty of the individuals to the German people) is totally cutting off any intelligent debate on the matter, and intended to do just that with malice aforethought, might have been better.</p> <p>My family drops a fair piece of change each week in Whole Foods. Until a few days ago it was our main 'go-to' store for our shopping needs.</p> <p>No more. </p> <p>I forsook the little, independent health food store closer to my home to shop at Whole Foods for the selection, quality, etc. </p> <p>Not anymore.</p> <p>Mr. Mackey, I can assure you that Margaret Thatcher, even under different circumstances, would NOT be a parton of your stores. </p> <p>You've gotten your demographics all wrong.</p> <p>Does anyone know if the url, 'firejohnmackey.com' is taken?</p>

CJ says …

<p>It appears from reading these posts that your new customer base will be more along the lines of Wal-Mart shoppers that will 'try your store out' or 'never heard of Whole Foods,but it must be worth trying because of your stance against the health care reform' types. These people will not be loyal long term cumtomers once they see that the Wal mart slave labor from China tactics are not used at your store. They will not continue to shop and pay much higher prices. You may have to open up a hunting department and start selling ammo, to keep your new customers coming back.<br> For the people who have been customers for many years, shopping at Whole Foods is usually a conscious decision and the willingness to pay higher prices is not just about getting healthier food, but also about contributing to the greater good in society and the world, of treating people right. Some of your cutomers have had to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to be able to shop at WFs. But you have shown that WF does not contribute to the greater good as much as your advertising, fair trade signage etc want us to believe. I am also very irritated that my stock will take a dive,even though the stock prices survived the economic downturn. You realy shot yourself on the foot.</p>

Frances Rice says …

<p>Thank you for standing up for America. I shop at Whole Foods and will continue to do so, even more frequently now.</p>

J. Graef says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>Thank you for your editorial. While it is obvious you are very good at making big profits (we don't call you Whole Paycheck for nuthin'), you have revealed yourself forever as being eager to enrich yourself without care or concern for your fellow citizens. As you are an energetic member of our burgeoning plutocracy, I have become just as eager to boycott your stores. I will not support feral greed or ill-informed justifications for it. BTW, Canada and Britain have marvellous and equal health opportunities for all, being evolved enough to understand that we are all of equal value despite egregious differences in financial holdings. I speak of what I know, having lived in both places. I will be urging my extensive email list to boycott Whole Foods henceforth.</p>

Kristi Stone says …

<p>Thank you Mr. Mackey, As a free market libertarian and lover of a world that works for everyone based on self government and freedom, I loved reading your real world 'working' solutions to healthcare. </p> <p>I can't wait til your new store is opens in Encinitas CA. I and many of my friends will be shopping at your stores. </p> <p>Keep up the great work for freedom, healthy food and a world that works without force.</p> <p>Sincerely,<br> Kristi Stone</p>

Tom says …

<p>So you support a health care industry that profits from denying health care and bankrupting its customers. What a misinformed, ideologue.</p> <p>Margaret Thatcher? You quote Margaret Thatcher? Our current economic crisis is the fault of our wholesale adoption of the crazy supply-side, Chicago School, Ayn Randian economic theories. It doesn't make any sense and it clearly doesn't work. What a disaster.</p> <p>I will never shop in one of your stores again. I can find better quality products and lower prices at the PCC any way.</p>

Daniel says …

<p>Bravo. I didn't agree with every part of your column, but I support free speech. Any true 'progressive' would do so as well.</p>

Irene says …

<p>Thank you for your article on health care.</p> <p>I don't have a Whole Foods store in my immediate area (would love for you to consider changing that) but because of the publicity you've garnered and boldness in standing up and out, I will be going out of my way, at every occassion, to frequent and purchase from your stores.</p>

jd says …

<p>Thank you for being a voice of reason.</p>

Brendan says …

<p>After reading about the whiny misguided outrage over your comments, I've signed up for email newsletters and recipes, and I'm going to start shopping at Whole Foods a little more often now.</p>

A Star Spangled Girl says …

<p>BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!</p> <p>I so commend you for standing up and not falling into FANATISM that the left gives into. THey are completely UNREALISTIC. We ALL want everytying for everyone. However'¦it doesn't work that way in this world. You are being a sensible and reasonable person. The way you run your company shows that not only are you a compassionate human being that cares about the world'¦but also realistic about the fact that this IS a Capitalistic world. </p> <p>The fact that some 'green ones' are boycotting your store is absolutely RIDICULOUS and can not for the life of me understand it.</p> <p>But be assure that for each OBSESSIVE GREEN PERSON that decides to drop you'¦.more of us REALISTIC people will be going to your store more. I was in your store for the second time last week (by the way'¦Anthony at the Fish Dept in your La Jolla store is super nice)'¦.and plan on supporting you and your store A LOT more from now on.</p> <p>So your clientelle will balance out in the end. Because REALITY is'¦people appreciate REALISTIC AND PRUDENT PEOPLE a lot more than ridiculous dreamers that have no concept of reality.</p> <p>SO hang in there. <img src="The%20CEO%E2%80%99s%20Blog%20%C2%BB%20Blog%20Archive%20%C2%BB%20Health%20Care%20Reform%20%E2%80%93%20Full%20Article_files/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" class="wp-smiley"></p> <p>And thank you for your wise words of wisdom.</p>

Joe Bloomer says …

<p>Thank you John Mackey! </p> <p>I read your opinion piece it the WSJ and it was very enlightening to read about your views and values. I appreciate and support your position on everyone's 'right' in our country to express their opinions and the individual freedom to make choices for our own life styles.</p> <p>You said 'A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America.'</p> <p>I agree that there are no specific mentions of these rights in the Constitution but I believe there are implied values supporting these in the Preamble to the Constitution.</p> <p>'We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.'</p> <p>Promoting the 'general welfare'¦ for ourselves and our posterity' means to me that the intention of the writers of the Constitution is for 'We the people' to help everyone achieve well-being and success. And if all Americans can't afford health care insurance in our current healthcare system then we as Americans have an ethical and moral responsibility in promoting the general welfare. </p> <p>Your company provides health care insurance for most of your employees that's great, but making them make hard choices between high health insurance deductibles and genuine living expenses I'm afraid is a place the insurance industry has pushed your company because of high insurance premiums. </p> <p>It seems to me that WFI it's growth has become is more beholding to it's corporate profits, share holders (i.e. Leonard Green and Partners) and upper management rewards than it is to customers and employees. </p> <p>I have been shopping at Whole Foods since it acquired Mrs. Gooch's small local chain in southern California. It's time for me to make the choice to take my business elsewhere to support my local cottage businesses. </p> <p>I wish you luck in accumulating all of the wealth you desire to satisfy your share holders, but it will not be with my purchasing dollars. I will be supporting my fellow Americans by shopping at local businesses and farmer's markets.</p> <p>Sincerely,</p> <p>Joe Bloomer<br> Redondo Beach/Torrance California</p>

Shelly Roche says …

<p>THANK YOU for posting thoughtful, logical &amp; practical ideas for addressing health care reform. </p> <p>I wholeheartedly support Whole Foods &amp; Mr. Mackey.</p>

A Star Spangled Girl says …

<p><strong>off topic</strong> BTW'¦I am uninsured and just lost my business 2 months ago'¦but I am STILL a HUGE believer of Capitalism (REAL FREE MARKET'¦NOT THIS GOVERNMENT/CORPORATISM CRAP) and will fight till the end so this country stays as it should be'¦.A REPUBLIC.</p> <p>Before any Healthcare Reform'¦we need GOVERNMENT/CONGRESS reform!!!</p>

Bob Zimmerman says …

<p>The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out '¨of other people's money.'<br> 'Margaret Thatcher<br> We already have socialism in our society and it has been beneficial for millions of American's and in concert with capitalism has led to us being a better country for it. Who would now recommend getting rid of Social Security and Medicare or our military or police and fire services or our post offices. Thatcher's quote in not really relevant to health care reform.<br> With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people's money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.<br> Where were you Mr. Mackey when George W. Bush took the tax surplus created under the Clinton Administration and gave it to his wealthy friends in the form of tax cuts. George W. Bush ran up the biggest deficit in this countries history by funding an Iraq war without raising taxes. Bush left Obama with a massive recession the biggest in our nation's history. Obama either provided a needed stimulus program or watch our country and the world sink into a 2nd great depression.<br> While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction'toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:<br> President Obama has the stated goal of not increasing the deficit with health care reform but paying for health care reform by taxing those making over 250,000 a year and through cost reductions in existing programs.<br> '¢'Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees' Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.<br> Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.<br> '¢'Equalize the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.<br> '¢'Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.<br> '¢'Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.<br> '¢'Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.<br> '¢'Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor's visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?<br> '¢'Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.<br> Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.<br> The plan you are describing here is the program advocated by John McCain who was defeated in November. Elections have consequences. Your man lost and President Obama is proposing the health care reform that the majority of the nation want.<br> Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care'to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?<br> We are the richest country on earth and should be able to provide our citizens with equal access to health care just as other countries have. Why should our country be paying twice as much for health care as other countries and yet not cover the 47 million who don't have any coverage and the 50 million more who are underinsured.<br> Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This 'right' has never existed in America<br> The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence do not cover a lot of the needs of 21st century life. I don't think the founding fathers would be too happy with an American society that doesn't treat all of its citizens equally in terms of access to something as basic as health care, given the richness of our country. We can't live our lives as if we were still living in 18th century society. The thought that health care is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges is ludicrous. The best health care system today is the V.A. system which is not voluntary nor handled through market exchanges.<br> Even in countries like Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments.<br> Canada and Great Britain are happier with their health care system that American's are with theirs. This weekend we have 12000 Americans waiting in long lines in Los Angeles to get health care at a fee clinic. We have 18,000 American's dying each year because of no access to health care let alone rationed health care. You should not be insulting other countries health care systems without knowing the facts.<br> Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are currently waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment, according to a report last month in Investor's Business Daily. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million.<br> Quote Investors Business Daily at your peril. They said last week that Dr. Hawking the Nobel Prize winning physicist would not have survived under Britain's National Health Care System. Dr. Hawking has been cared for by the NHS for over 40 years and is perfectly happy with his care.<br> At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly'they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an 'intrinsic right to health care'? The answer is clear'no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.'or in any other country.<br> Your Canadian and British employees have a better health care plan than your American employees. They get the best of both worlds. Why wouldn't they like that?<br> Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.<br> Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending'heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity'are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.</p> <p>Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.<br> Some of your points are valid but even people with healthy lifestyles still get life threatening diseases our are involved in accidents. President Obama's health care reform program puts more emphasis on 'wellness' programs which is essentially what you are referring to.<br> Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society.<br> The health care reform proposals under discussion by the Congress are not in conflict with your last paragraph.<br> 'Mr. Mackey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc.<br> Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page<br> '¨</p>

Karyl Krug says …

<p>I've been shopping with Whole Foods since before the 'Whole Floods' days here in Austin ' no more. We now have HEB/Central Market, and soon-to-be-coming Sprouts, and that's where I am taking my food dollars in West Lake Hills/Austin. I also recommend that comments regarding the U.S. Constitution be left to constitutional scholars ' sure it doesn't mention a right to health care or food, but it also doesn't mention a right to water or air ' so to folks like me who deal with federal constitutional issues every day, your comment just sounds inane. As well as callous. Adios!</p>

doris breasseale says …

<p>You said it all. Come to Alabama and we will totally support you here. The libs are so set in their agenda. I have medicare which does not cover much at all for a cost of close to $100/mo. If I need additional coverage I pay for it myself. Why would I want more government healthcare. They can't run medicare. They can't run social security either. It will be 2014 before we will get another raise. Thank you government. Keep you hands off please.</p>

Stacey says …

<p>I can't even tell you how disappointed I am that 1) you would actually say these things without doing any real research ' I mean pros/cons/statistics/studies the works. i'll concede that it is only your opinion, but you are stating crap as if it were facts. And 2) Of course I can no longer shop at Whole Foods and will actively encourage others to do the same. Even considering the plight of your employees ' do you honestly think that some other company (trader joes maybe) isn't willing to step in when you falter ' and as that other company expands, your laid off employees will have jobs again'¦at the very least if not a politically correct company ' some place w/a ceo smart enough to keep his personal opinion to himself when it could negatively affect his business. Why couldn't you just keep your opinion to yourself?! I would've remained blissfully unaware that you have no compassion for your fellow Americans ' And by compassion, I mean the human emotion prompted by the pain of others. More vigorous than empathy, the feeling commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering'¦and I'm not talking about the pain in your wallet, ok? So very disappointed.</p>

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