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.

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

4666 comments

Comments

Jana says …

<p>A very good article. We believe in prevention rather than waiting to get sick and trying to cure it. People need to take control of their own health, and not just eat and drink anything they want, and then hope a doctor can give them a drug to make them well. Who was it that said, 'let your food be your medicine'?</p>

Julia in Austin says …

<p>I commend Mr. Mackey for his constructive ideas on our Healthcare issues in the United States. Making Healthcare 'free' or 'universal' has not proven to get decent healthcare to anyone in a more effective or efficient manner. In fact, it is the opposite. Ask anyone you know in Poland, (where one of my friend's bosses just paid $5,000 under the table to get a much needed surgery for his mother ' instead of waiting over a year) or Canada or England. If you went directly to a Michael Moore movie, please try to objectively find another source. He is a little sensational ' it is Hollywood after all. </p> <p>I would like the best and brightest of America's youth to consider medicine as a career, and believe they should be paid for their sacrifices when selecting that field. Long hours, so much school, a tremendous stress load. Not like Canada where you like fixing things ' so you chooose between being a mechanic or a doctor because both pay the same, and the socialism structure has sucked out any rewards for healing people.</p> <p>And tort reform is inclined towards the malpractice suits against doctors, not food safety like another commenter suggested. And if you think the FDA ' another monolithic government agency ' has your back on that ' you are kidding yourself. Think of nutrasweet, and Splenda and now Stevia. All are FDA approved, and have neurological implications if ingested too much or periods of time. Don't rely on the government to make sure you are protected. DO IT YOURSELF. You are smart enough. </p> <p>And that is what this opposition to Universal Healthcare is about. I can make my own choices on health care. I don't want the government to do it for me. They are not equipped to do a good job. Look at the huge Medicare deficient they current have. What's the problem with doing what Mr. Mackey suggests and having them fix that first ' before we hand over universal control? </p> <p>And what is the rush for this most important topic. I understand it is important -but no need to rush over the cliff to find their is no safety net or bridge to take you across the ravine. Rushing insures you will surely plummet to an untimely death. Why must this administration and the Democratic congress try to push this through?</p> <p>I scrimp and safe and have my own portable health insurance. I am very happy with it. </p> <p>Mr. Mackey ' Thank you for suggesting these well thought out points, and responding to President Obama's call to action. It takes courage to do that I believe you are a genuine part of the solution. </p> <p>I will shop even more frequently at Whole Foods Market.</p>

Douglas Howell says …

<p>'Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines.' What that means is to allow insurance companies to set up in the state with the least regulation.<br> 'Repeal all government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover.' So that insurance companies can create policies that have to be studied for hours by lawyers to understand what they really do or don't cover? Thanks but no thanks.<br> 'Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors into paying insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.' Sure if someone has the wrong leg amputated what's the big deal?<br> '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?'<br> I think the comparison to food, clothing to the extent that it is essential and shelter from the elements is valid. No one calls home ownership, car or PC ownership a right. You are right though most of us think we should not allow our fellow citizens starve, freeze to death or go without basic health care. After all this country was founded by people who said things like 'All men are created equal.' Those silly socialists forgot to add 'except those born into poverty who are fundamentally inferior or those born into wealth who are clearly superior.'</p>

Steven L Wolf says …

<p>Please help me to make your shoppers, your followers and America aware of the alternative to Socialized Health Care. Health Care reform that embraces the Free-Market and Individual Responsibility. It's the 21st Century and It's about time we help each other in a way that's beneficial to each other. Please read and support the Legislative Initiative.<br><a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://www.theamericancarecard.com/" rel="nofollow">http://www.TheAmericanCareCard.com</a><br> Thx. StevenLWolf</p>

ed says …

<p>after reading your position i will seek out the nearest store and begin shopping!!</p>

SL Godwin says …

<p>Albert Einstein, said, 'Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.'</p>

Sam Schmitt says …

<p>What a hoot! People refusing to shop somewhere because the CEO disagrees with them on a political issue! Better write to the CEOs of Mercedes, Tiffany's and Brooks Brothers to see if they agree with you on major policy issues before you buy another car, necklace or business suit. Or maybe there are some organic farmers out there who voted for Bush ' you better stop eating organic food since you wouldn't want to support them!</p> <p>I'm also enjoying the classic liberal line that Mr. Mackey 'doesn't care' about those who can't get insurance or who have horrible medical conditions that are not their fault. Does this mean that the Obama plan is the answer? It may look like Obama and the Democrats 'care,' but all the caring in the world can't change what's simply dumb and counterproductive policy. </p> <p>Let me make it simple ' if the health care system in this country is so broken, why are we adding 30 million more people to it ' with money we don't have?</p>

Jim Capatelli says …

<p>John,</p> <p>This part of your essay is sick. And sickening. It comes close to pathological in what it reveals about you and the way in which you view other human beings:</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. 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>Shameful. Reading this makes me want to vomit. Literally. </p> <p>I'm very glad I haven't given you a penny since the publication of this vile, contemptible screed. I have lost any and all respect for you, John Mackey. Your cruelty, your viciousness and your moral vacuity have overwhelmed any human decency you may once have possessed.</p>

Coco Bumpers says …

<p>Wow.I can't believe that you started this article with a Thatcher quote. Could you be more polarizing?</p> <p>Was there no Reagan quote available'¦possibly something about how gays deserve to die from AIDs and don't need/deserve health care. </p> <p>Others have made more cogent points about the fact that:</p> <p>..'the person you quoted presided over a country with a massive socialized medicine apparatus and left it that way. Just today the head of Thatcher's conservative party reiterated their staunch support for socialized medicine.' </p> <p>and </p> <p>2) aside from being an unmitigated disaster of a CEO (for this whole mess) you are apparently a Hypocrite since:</p> <p>'¦'if you TRULY favored individual choice and responsibility, you ought to let your workers unionize if they choose to instead of busting up their attempts to do so (like you did in Madison, WI). I guess in your mind people should be free to do anything they want'¦except organize.'</p> <p>By the way I own a portion of this company, not a large enough portion to fire you, but enough to be completely ashamed that you can't focus on finding fresh food and keep your idiotic opinions to your self. Did you spend WF money on this crap? If not, do you have so much free time to spend on it? amazing.</p> <p>I also happen to be a decorated veteran of this country, injured in active duty. Unfortunately, my family does not qualify for healthcare coverage and I'll be moving overseas where I am fortunate enough to be able to live with my wife in her country, where we can raise a family in a healthcare system a little higher up the worldwide rankings than south of #25!</p> <p>So while I am sure a lot your new customers would say good riddance to me, I will say I am very sorry it has to be this way. I love my country very much.</p> <p>When the kind of TeaBagger Hypocrisy, GOP SuperCruelty and fear mongering you encourage leads to the rise of corn pone Naziism then at least it will mean we will finally get some exercise for our kids, even if it is from forced inscription, forced labor or running from the secret police. </p> <p>Anyone want to buy some WF stock?</p>

Douglas Thompson says …

<p>Health Care Reform Act-intent for Change</p> <p>For many years, America's health brokers have been offering health insurance to individuals, small businesses and large businesses for decades, yet the enrollment statistics have revealed a steady decrease on an annual basis. The number of uninsured Americans is estimated to be as high as 30 million, and the Health Care Reform Act offers a solution. Not only will there be a higher enrollment number for America's health brokers, but as of 2014, it will be required by law for every American to obtain health insurance. Every single American will be impacted by the New Health Reform Bill, making it one of the most important measures of the 21st Century.<br> Businesses<br> The main focus will be on businesses of 50 or more employees, in which they will be required to offer individual health plans, as well as family plans to all employees or face some stiff fines from the government. The amount comes to $2000 per uninsured employee, though there are exemptions to this fine. If you as an employer assist an individual with acquiring a personal health insurance plan through an open market called an exchange, then it would result in no fines. This only applies to an individual who makes a certain amount under the Federal Poverty Level, and the premiums are over 8% of his annual income.<br> America's health brokers can rest easy in the fact that there will be expanded coverage, though there may be more competition. With the rise in individuals who will have health insurance, there may not be as large of a risk as one may assume. Though the new bill will require America's health brokers to enroll individuals with pre-existing conditions, there will also be a new population of young individuals who will be insured with fewer health problems.<br> It is understood that larger companies already provide a group insurance plan (HMO, PPO) that covers all areas of needs for the population of employees. These policies will change very little, but there may be some changes in where the funding for the new health care plan will come. It is proposed that those making a certain amount of money, both individuals and couples, will be taxed at a higher percentage than others. This will provide money that can be used for the exchange and making sure that all individuals will be offered an affordable health plan.<br> There are still a few years before the plan goes into full effect, though some of the measures will be enforced immediately. There will be plenty of time to sort out the details and iron out the difficulties. As for the plan, anyone who does not have health insurance as of January 1, 2014, will be penalized a certain amount of money, and this amount could become worse if health insurance is continuously neglected. There has never been a better opportunity for America's health brokers in terms of acquiring a new customer base-a broader customer base. Also, there has never been a better time in history for individuals being provided with the resources for the necessary medical treatment. This is a very unique time, with history in the making. Finally, there will be health care for all.</p>

Douglas Thompson says …

<p>A Government proposal for Change-Health Care Reform Act</p> <p>March 2010 may stand out as a monumental month for change with the Obama Administration-Americans can look forward to changes in the current health care system through the passing of the Health Care Reform Act. Though there are many details that need to be ironed out, there are many changes that have been established. </p> <p>There are two factors that will have the largest impact for Americans and America's health brokers:<br> 1)The fact that as of 2014, it is required by law for employers to offer affordable health insurance plans to all employees.<br> 2)As of 2014, all Americans will be required to acquire health insurance.</p> <p>Employers-For businesses over 100 employees, there may not be many changes. The difference may be that part-time employees will be offered aid with a percentage of hours in relation to full-time employment. This will offer benefits to those who do not have that same opportunity currently as a part-time employee. With businesses under 100 employees, there will be opportunities for credits from the government to offer aid with those employees. A percentage will be paid, based on payroll that will pool to help those who acquire insurance through an exchange, where many of America's health brokers will provide different affordable insurance plans for all individuals.<br> What is the incentive for employers to offer insurance?<br> Employers will face a fine of up to $2000 per employee for not providing insurance coverage to an individual employee. These fines can be diverted if the employer offers an alternative means to acquire insurance (which would require assistance through the exchange).<br> Individuals-As of 2014, all Americans (with the exception of certain special case individuals) will be required to carry some form of insurance. Insurance will either be offered through employment or affordable insurance can be purchased through the exchange. America's Health brokers will offer many new plans and opportunities to acquire cheap health insurance.<br> What is the incentive for individuals to acquire insurance?<br> According to the law, there will be a penalty assessed to all Americans who fail to acquire health insurance by the year 2014. The fine will be originally set at $695 per person, per year. This will hopefully be enough to encourage those who are not insured to carry some form of low cost health insurance.<br> America's health brokers will be seeing some changes that could affect them. Pre-existing conditions will no longer be applicable in denying insurance to children. As of 2014, America's health brokers cannot deny health insurance to anyone due to a pre-existing condition. There are other factors that will change certain policies and conditions.<br> The Health Care Reform Bill is an opportunity to reorganize the condition of care that is offered in the United States. There are many issues that riddle the care of many Americans, so hopefully this will provide solutions to some of the larger issues. One key aspect is the fact that all Americans will have the opportunity to have health care. This will be advantageous in many aspects: Prescription medications, preventative care, and treatment.</p>

Ama says …

<p>I think some of these healthcare reform ideas are interesting and make sense. However, I do believe that our founding fathers championed 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' It's impossible for our citizens to be truly happy when millions of Americans lack access to basic healthcare. Furthermore, I believe that the right to food and shelter are basic rights Americans should never stop working toward. And, I'm not a socialist. I'm an American with unwavering faith in our ability to live the ideals that make this nation great.</p>

Miss L Hicks says …

<p>'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.' </p> <p>I AGREE</p>

Mark Strong says …

<p>I find it odd that so many here are responding to Mr. Mackey's thoughts on health care as though he were a politician and they need to vote by spending more at, or by abandoning WFM. I view it more as Mr. Mackey is a supplier of fuel for my body which I need in order avoid disease and since he has managed to put together the best and most reliable source of the foods I seek, I spend most of my food dollars at WFM, with no regard whatever for politics, nor do I care if Mr Mackey is a Libertarian or a Socialist. He offers the best value proposition for obtaining high quality organic produce and that is key in my own health care solution.</p>

Johanne Roy says …

Stimulating and thought provoking article!

Kathy Fullmer says …

My initial and overriding reactions to John MacKey's article are positive. He has expressed some ideas that I had not heard or read before. I so adamantly agree that we are responsible for our own health. I have made this a priority in my life. I have made it my business to get information and apply it to my health. I have read much of what the Diet and Lifestyle Community has written and am glad to be seeing their names mentioned in this article. I wish that our local primary care physicians had done the same so they could encourage their patients to embrace a truly healthier diet as well.

Pages