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

Tim says …

<p>Bravo, Mr. Mackey!<br> I am glad someone out there in the corporate world has the balls to say what he feels. I feel sorry for those folks who do not understand your piece or do not agree with your viewpoint. It is their loss and are missing out on some great products in a wonderful shopping environment should they boycott your stores. I, personally, will continue to patronize your beautiful Roseville CA location and let them know that your company can be trusted to be one of the best sources for quality, responsibly produced products that have value. And as far as I am concerned, your products are priced reasonably for what I get. I should know. I work for the competition.</p>

Dr. V says …

<p>Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>Your comments on health care are well thought, clearly stated, and 100% right. What American health care needs is less distortion of market delivered solutions'¦ health care customers who know exactly the prices of the health care services they purchase, unrestricted choice among skilled providers, large-pool catastrophic care insurance options paid for by the individual, and incentives to budget and save for predictable medical and dental needs. In essence, we have become the most poorly educated consumers of health care services to live in an age when we are closest to being able to effectively treat the most common diseases and conditions. </p> <p>If anything, our current health care system woes are the result of 'someone else' paying the bills, government and third-payer attempts at regulating costs and limiting services, out-of-control lawsuits, and restricted competition. </p> <p>As you noted, the government would best assist us by making these expenses tax deductible (a way of ensuring those tax dollars go exactly to the services most desired and consumed). If we really needed to spend 'other' people's money for health care, we could guarantee loans to build clinics or purchase equipment, and offer 'tax credit' dollars for those truly not able to afford services. </p> <p>It is insanity to us to ask collectively for a Big Brother to make sure 'I get what I need.' Imagine what a joke the proposed system would be if it was proposed as a solution to our food and shelter 'needs.' Could someone pay for my car insurance, too?</p> <p>Dr. V.</p>

Mike Adams says …

<p>Mr. John Mackey,<br> Although I expect my post will not be read, I'll put it out there anyway. I appreciate your article and the thought you put into it. Many of your points are well made.<br> I think however, that you have fallen into a common trap. I have heard many people whom I respect make the arguments you eloquently stated in your article and they all have one thing in common. They are all, every single one of them privileged.<br> I don't mean that they are all privileged in the sense as George W. or the British Royal Family. However, they are all privileged in that they have health insurance and marketable skills. They don't live in poverty and likely never will. They don't have any idea what it is like to live in a neighborhood where there is no grocery store and the only available food is junk food from a convenience store.<br> They don't know what it is like to live for years with a painful and infected tooth which is too costly to fix even if the individual is working two jobs at minimum wage. The basic choices that we privileged members of society have are not available to everyone in our society and as such it is simply naive to expect those individuals to be personally responsible for things that lie completely out of their control.<br> Like every issue of societal welfare, the healthcare debate eludes any simple solution. Any viable answer must include both individual responsibility and societal responsibility. The synthesis of these philosophies is the only way of moving forward in a truly intelligent fashion.<br> We ought to remember that our country spends more money each year on military than every other country in the world combined. I simply can't believe that we couldn't re-direct some of those resources to providing basic necessities to our population and giving everyone a real chance at a healthy life.<br> In the long run, it will cost our society less to provide our populace with a pro-active health system, quality education and nutritious food than it will to continue with our current system of allowing those necessities to be withheld from those who can't afford the cost. Unhealthy individuals ultimately end up in emergency rooms taxing our system a fair bit more than if we had provided them with access to the tools they needed to be healthy in the first place.</p>

Jim Rose says …

<p>You say that in the U.K. people are told by governmental bureaucrats what treatments and medicine they are eligible to receive. If you replace the words 'governmental bureaucrats' with 'insurance company bureaucrats' in your paragraph, it would quite accurately describe the system that most of us U.S. citizens experience (except of course for the 20% who get nothing at all). I don't think I've ever had an HMO that wasn't plastered with all kinds of rules about what was and what was not covered, and what I had to get advance approval for. But somehow it's not called rationing because it's done by private companies whose sole motive is profit? I don't get the distinction. You are clearly just parroting the same tired right wing talking points about all those scary foreigners that have been discredited as barefaced lies time after time, but are kept alive by the very deep pockets of the insurance companies. By the way, it's funny that 86% of U.K. citizens in a nationwide survey last year were reportedly 'fairly proud' or 'very proud' of their NHS. Must be because they are scared of being singled out by the government death squads for extermination if they say otherwise. Strange though that that the U.S. is much worse off than the U.K. and most every other industrialized nation in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.<br> I've been shopping less and less at Whole Foods and Henry's recently anyway (way too expensive), but I sure as heck won't be going there again, just as a matter of principle. Its Trader Joe's only for me from now on! By the way, next time you do an editorial, do some fact checking first!</p>

lezah says …

<p>Sir'i will no longer support your business. you have missed the whole point of reform. As i nurse i see the effect &amp; results of large insurance companies refusing to cover pre-existing conditions. All for the glory of profit. God forbid Aenta should loose s few million in profit.</p>

Michele White says …

<p>Once a week, over ten years, four moves, three states, from learning about eating for health ' to raising children and packing lunches ' to gift cards for kids away at school, I was your loyal customer. You have just forced me to end our relationship. I think the sad thing is you wont even understand why. Trust me, your new girlfriends who are just coming around now will never be as good to you, or as loyal, as I was.</p>

Dave says …

<p>Companies drill the fact that employees represent the company they work for every minute of the day and are called out if they do something the company does not like. CEOs should not be able to disqualify themselves from this with a few words (and in fact it really doesn't work anyway as Mr. Mackey is likely learning). Likely I will reduce my spending in Whole Foods due to his statements.</p> <p>In regards to the opinion stated, it is amazing how people can get talked out of their Christian values by the seduction of conservative talk about being self reliant and the resource efficiencies of markets. Civilization itself is based on communities creating safety nets for those that find themselves not highly valued monetarily (teachers, service workers, children, artists, the disabled, and ill). Health care reform is not perfect, but it is civilized. Lose your job, get seriously ill, have a pre-condition, through no fault of your own, and there is a social contract that we all have (and the government is we) to protect others, lest we find ourselves in that place one day without help.</p> <p>It is just as much protecting our civilization as our military. Civil unrest is born out of resource scarcity and the 'I got mine' mentality. I say this as a high income person who doesn't like high taxes, but knows there is protection in providing basic services to those that can't afford the basics. </p> <p>Let's get the system in place, then go after the waste and those that game the system. We need this reform. It is part of 'National Security' and it is a Christian (and other religion's) concept.</p>

James says …

<p>I'm glad you spoke your mind John. I have a whole foods near me, and have heard great things. I support you on this, and will be shopping there this week.</p>

Jambone says …

<p>You know what's awful about all those countries with socialized medicine? They dare to have better health care than the US.</p> <p>How dare they ' the US ranks 34th in the world in infant mortality rates, and what do the 33 countries that do a better job of keeping their babies alive have in common? Comprehensive, public health care systems.</p> <p>And'¦oh, the indignity ' life expectancy? What do you mean you would have a better chance of living a longer, healthier life in 52 other countries? And those countries get these results by spending, on average, half the cost of what the US pays for health care today.</p> <p>So what does the US do better than all these other countries? Award huge bonuses and obscene paydays to health insurance CEOs while 45 million of our citizens are relegated to pauper status by the 'free market' health care system. Woohoo! We're Number 1!!!</p> <p>Tell me some more lies, John!</p>

Bryan Smith says …

<p>Thank you for writing this excellent piece. I have never shopped at Whole Foods but I will begin soon. I am one of the 'less fortunate' counted among those with no health insurance. This was a choice my family made. We belong to a large Christian medical cost sharing group which has covered thousands of dollars of medical costs in the last year. The reforms Obama has been pushing would remove this option from the table for all Americans and I find that unacceptable. </p> <p>This 'crisis' is yet another example of the government actually being and causing the problem. If the US government took the steps you propose I am certain the current crisis would solve itself.</p>

Hal Segal says …

<p>Mr. Mackey, you apparently do not realize a very basic fact: your customers view shopping at Whole Foods as discretionary. It is a luxury that one can easily do without. In my family's case, we were previously willing to travel further and pay more to shop there, because we (mistakenly) thought that the organization shared our values. Now that we've discovered otherwise, our business will go elsewhere. Thank you, Mr. Mackey, for sharing your thoughts in the Wall Street Journal. Without your article, we might have continued to support Whole Foods while being ignorant of your repugnant views. Now that we know, you can be certain we won't be supporting your business any longer.</p>

adam b says …

<p>While I respect your right to free speech, I'm so incredibly disappointed in your point of view I almost feel sick. How ironic.</p> <p>Wake up and find a sense of decency. We CAN insure all people, not just the well off (like myself) who are of a place of privilege in this society. There are so many holes in your blog posting I don't know where to begin. And frankly, I am too heartbroken to try. </p> <p>No more Whole Foods for me'an probably most of the people I know.</p>

Ron says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey:</p> <p>Reading the entirety of your article does not change my intitial negative reaction. I will no longer be shopping at your store. I have excellent health insurance and I pay 60% while my employer pays 40%. I keep myself fit by running and exercising and eating right.I make an effort to stay healthy. Nonetheless, I do believe that healthcare is a right. This viewpoint is called compassion for your fellow man. In other words, just because I'm in a good place doesn't mean that I don't care about others less fortunate. It's a Christian value. Your elitist attitude is repugnant. There are many, many working poor'people who are industrious, and law-abiding who are unable to afford health insurance. The alternatives you propose sound a lot like republican propaganda. And as for your plan that everyone should just be eating healthier'have you seen the prices at your store? Telling poor people that they have to eat expensive organic food and they'll be healthier is absurd. You may as well be saying 'Let them eat cake' Sound familiar?</p>

Robert Anthony says …

<p>After reading your Op/Ed, I pondered what direction to go with my reply. Should I take each of your points and refute or sum up my feelings from purely a financial approach'I chose the latter.</p> <p>1. Costs to Whole Foods<br> Regardless if what you say is true, and I am sure we will hear from the Journal, whether 'An editor at the Journal rewrote the headline to call it 'Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare', you are extremely naïve to think, especially in your CEO Role, if your thoughts would only be treated as 'giving your personal opinions' and not be associated in anyway with Whole Foods. As a CEO, others both internal and external see you as 'THE' company role model and thus any actions and communications, regardless of their intent have impact both internaly and externally. Frankly, I'm curious, was your 'personal Op/Ed' vetted to your internal Communications, Human Resources, and for the matter your Board of Directors? I assume so on the latter because according to online sources you serve as both CEO/Chairman of the Board. Assuming you did the due diligence to vet your 'personal Op/Ed' before submission, you should at least lose your role as Chairman of the Board, secondly as CEO, and thirdly possibly all the Heads of the above departments should be fired collectively as you all have demonstrated to be sufficiently out-of-touch with your client base demographics AKA those that bring the much needed cash that ends up in your registers.</p> <p>2. Savings to me<br> After looking over my Whole Food receipts for the past month'typically stop in at least twice a week here in Pasadena, Ca, I will be having a great cost savings. As anyone who shops at Whole Foods can clearly say, you are not the least expensive place in town to shop, which hits home even more so now due to the Nation's financial crisis. After all, dealing with the combined weights of tighter credit and job markets, I have to watch every penny especially after also paying for the so-called cost savings benefits of, 'high deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts.'</p> <p>I am not sure it was your intent, but thanks for making me feel better about doing my shopping outside of Whole Foods!</p>

kay says …

<p>Kudos, John. I know you know this, but ignore the lunatics. Your customer base is there for you and for each one who 'claims' they will boycott (most won't for very long), you are gaining at least two new customers who appreciate your moxy and your point of view. You speak for me, especially in the respect to intrinsic rights. You have given a credible voice to many of us out here who are fighting hard to be heard and hopefully have a halting effect on those who would turn their last freedom (and mine) over to a tyrannical government. I am a breast cancer patient, and while I did not have any control over my genetic predisposition to the disease, I agree with you wholeheartedly about preventative health and fitness through smart lifestyle discipline and choices. As a stage IV breast cancer patient, I can promise you that living smartly most of my life has contributed greatly and enabled me to live healthier and longer through cancer treatment than many folks I know who did not care for their dietary health. As well, your comments regarding the UK health system are not falling on deaf ears. Though some would like to take you to task for your comments and facts, I have lost several friends in the UK system (breast cancer patients I know through online support groups) because they do not have access to the exact treatments that have already kept me alive 4 years longer than expected, with no expiration date in sight. Just this past March, NICE denied the newest and most innovative drug to date for my diagnosis. It is heart-wrenching to communicate with them about the drugs that they so desperately want but are not allowed to have from their health system.</p> <p> I will see you at the Mothership on 6th and Lamar tomorrow and as often as I can afford to be there. Again, thanks for saying what had to be said, and for saying it so eloquently.</p>

Starchild says …

<p>Excellent blog entry, John! Thank you for standing up for health freedom. Here is another terrific piece, by Lew Rockwell:</p> <p><a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/obama-postoffice126.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/obama-postoffice126.html</a></p> <p>I really hope enough people will hear these kinds of messages before it's too late. This country can't afford another open-ended, unsustainable liability along the lines of Medicare and Social Security. Those two programs alone are already projected to saddle future generations with burdens they won't be able to bear. Not to mention the trillions of dollars of bailouts under Bush and Obama. Ordinary working folks can't take any more!</p> <p>If you haven't already done so, your voice as a CEO would also be appreciated in speaking out against corporate bailouts. This whole 'too big to fail' thing is a total scam. If a company is 'too big to fail,' then let it be broken up into a bunch of small companies, so the well-run ones can survive and the others can be replaced by better run firms.</p> <p>Oh, and everyone should watch this video from the International Society for Individual Liberty on the Non-Aggression Principle ' <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://www.isil.org/resources/introduction.swf." rel="nofollow">http://www.isil.org/resources/introduction.swf.</a></p>

MH says …

<p>For-profit health care is just a bad idea. I was going to hit up the Whole Foods bulk bins again next week, but now I'm thinking that's a bad idea too. You've lost a customer for life.</p>

Dain says …

<p>Your scrubbing of negative commentary about Whole Foods not only proves your dishonesty, it reinforces mine (and others) decisions NOT to ever shop at your stores again. Shame on all of you.</p>

Barbara in Seattle says …

<p>I was looking forward to shopping at the soon-to-open WF in Interbay/Ballard. Sadly, I cannot in good conscience go there now. I will continue to shop at Trader Joe's, PCC Markets, and Metropolitan Markets.<br> You will be happy to know that I will be exercising my free-will in the free market and spending my dollars elsewhere.</p>

Silver says …

<p>Our family will be boycotting Whole Foods in Honolulu. If this article represents the corporate culture of Whole Foods then you have been really lying to us and you do not care about community health! If it is just your personal opinion, then you shouldn't be working at Whole Foods. People use to think that even though Whole Foods was expensive, it cared about people's health and well being. Your lack of compassion in this article has outraged many many people I know. As you have obviously heard, food holds the vibration of it's preparers. I don't think I could eat the food from Whole Foods without thinking about and tasting your hypocrisy and coldness of caring for the community.</p>

jane says …

<p>As a loyal customer who shops daily in your Boston store on Westland Ave I can tell you thatI am about to become very familiar with Trader Vics and Shaws at the Prudential Center. These stores are in no way as convenient for me as the Westland Ave store but I am happy to make the effort to go to them in light of your op ed in the WSJ. You have underestimated the commitment of your customers to doing the right thing for our less fortunate citizens.You are perhaps the most stupid CEO of a company thatI have ever had the displeasure of patronizing. No more. I am done. I will only shop at WFM when your board fires you. Can't wait, as I really love shopping at my local WFM but. You have ruined it for me. Time for you to say goodby.</p>

James Reber says …

<p>I believe that you meant well by your editorial. I believe that it expresses your true feelings. I believe that among your friends and family you are a genuinely giving, wonderful, loving person. This is why what you have written is getting the negative reaction from so many people, especially those of us who are loyal and dedicated Whole Foods customers.</p> <p>'I disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.' This quote attributed to Voltaire is at the heart of what I believe American democracy is all about. You have spoken and we have had a chance to read what you have said.</p> <p>My disagreement with you is deep and wide, but what pains me most is that you simply do not inhabit the same world as I and my friends and neighbors do and seem unable to understand the basic facts of life in it. You have chosen to associate with a point of view that includes people who really want no reform at all and who have been shouting and disrupting and refusing to listen to our side.</p> <p>As a Vietnam Era Veteran (who enlisted to serve my country), as a college educated (very well educated in public schools in California -when they were well funded), as a nonprofit entrepreneur who has founded a few organizations that serve the public good, I am clearly not able to enjoy the life you and your CEO brethren (almost exclusively brethren, too) enjoy. </p> <p>You make this clear by ignoring the proverbial elephant in the metaphorical health care room ' insurance by private companies is destroying us as a nation, dividing us into a small well-insured elite who can pontificate with little emotion and no empathy about what the rest of us should do.</p> <p>I applaud your strength and mastery of the CEO-line of discussion, but I am more impressed by the number of pro-editorial comments as you have been able to garner to support your opinion. I do not know these people. These are not the other customers I shop with at Whole Foods in Los Gatos, Campbell or Cupertino, California. And Whole Foods is where I do 90% of my grocery shopping and have done for the last several years.</p> <p>The idea that these people are now going to become Whole Foods customers leads me to want to stay away from your place of business as your callous disregard for the vast majority of your customers. To be fair, I didn't know or need to know who you were to like shopping, to like the way I am treated by your excellent staff (whom I now know are getting screwed on their health insurance), or to like the products I buy there weekly.</p> <p>I pay more to shop at your store because I care about what I eat and the environment in which it is grown and I am willing to pay a little more to live in a better world. I didn't care if you and your board got rich or richer ' - until now.</p> <p>Now I know that the American system of separating customers from producers, CEOs from working people, the selfish-uncaring entitled wealthy from the common rabble of almost middle class and below, is working just fine because you display it so clearly and vividly.</p> <p>This is not really about you personally, it is about you sociologically ' socio-economically, if you will. I believe you are a nice person, someone I might enjoy sharing a chat or a cup of tea with or someone with whim I could discuss art or sports or literature. This is what makes it more maddening. You of the CEO world cannot see what it is that's making us so upset that we will shop at store we don't particularly like rather than feed the CEO trough any more of the stuff that causes such blindness and insensitivity.</p> <p>Here's a possible way for you to gain some 'empathy' that most CEOs never acquire. Live one year, just one year without coverage for you or your family and budget about $700 to $800 to pay for your own health care. Just do this, please, and then re-write that editorial.</p> <p>Walk in our shoes, the people who can barely make the payments, the people who stay in horrible jobs just so they can have health care, the people with pre-existing conditions who can't get insured, even if they are healthier than you will ever be ' then write all the editorials you want to. And be sure to send them to the other CEOs of America.</p> <p>I'm not sure if I'll boycott forever, but right now I see no sign that you have heard those of us who have been drowned out by the shouters who support your positions against real reform. Maybe you can find this to be a teachable moment, Mr. Mackey for you and the CEO world you live in. We already 'get it'.</p>

AKo says …

<p>I find it somewhat ironic that you open with the 'scary' Thatcher quote despite the fact that she (as fiscally conservative and free market as she was) was PM for 11 years and worked within England's NHS system for all of them. </p> <p>Sure, she introduced new type of management into the program, but she never, ever, advocated to privatize it. She knew where her bread was buttered, so I suppose she was a 'socialist' when she needed to be to get elected. You can be a free market fiscal conservative and still support universal, single-payer health care.</p> <p>Obama's public option actually looks conservative when placed next to Thatcher's 'pared down' incarnation of the NHS, and that is saying something! </p> <p>The Milwaukee WF is losing my business. I will now be making the occasional bus trip to your competitor ' dragging lots of heavy bags home ' instead of shopping frequently at the convenient WF location 2 blocks from my apartment.</p> <p>Oh yeah, and on the 'right to food'. . . I would have never grown up to be the 24-year-old-college-educated-environmentally-conscious Whole Foods shopper I was if it weren't for the WIC program my mom used when I was a baby, and the free lunches I received in my public schools growing up while my parents were struggling to get their college degrees. </p> <p>Dad and Mom eventually became a college professor (Forest Hydrology) and teacher respectively, and made enough money for me to be able to enjoy the life and education that allowed me to shop in your stores. Without WIC, subsidized daycare at their public university, and free lunches, my dad would still be working in a factory (actually, probably laid off do to outsourcing) and we would have never been able to afford your groceries. I feel totally disrespected.</p>

jane says …

<p>I forgot to share this: we probably spend on average more than $2000 per month in your store. Say bye bye to that!</p>

JRElliott says …

<p>In addition to this site (which can be diluted and distorted by the same angry mob that has been showing up at Town Hall meetings), another worthwhile avenue might be for those of us who frequent WFM to approach the Team Leaders at our favorite stores, especially if they know us. It may be easy for Mackey to ignore some random citizen who claims to be a customer but, if he hears through management channels that his comments are making it difficult for his stores to attract and keep a loyal customer base, he might be inclined to go back to running the business.</p>

Timothy Dexter says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>So, your alternative to 'Obamacare' is that we should purchase more healthy, organic fruits and veggies from your overpriced store? This is somehow supposed to be a reasoned, personal opinion unrelated to the massive, personal fortune you have connected to Whole Foods?</p> <p>I would brush off your piece as disingenuous marketing tripe if it weren't for the fact that real people's lives and livelihoods are at stake. Not all of us are as fortunate as you, Mr. Mackey. It must be easy to decry socialism when your pockets are lined with gold.</p> <p>Your company won't receive another penny from me, and you can be sure that I'll make sure that my friends shop elsewhere, too.</p>

Kevin Moore says …

<p>Your position on health care reform has absolutely poisoned the entire image of Whole Foods for me. I'm stunned by the degree to which you're out of touch with the problems and passions of your core demographic. Needless to say I won't be shopping there anymore.</p>

guy says …

<p>You've lost my business forever.</p> <p>That sound of gleeful cackling you hear is from the Trader Joe's boardroom. </p> <p>They just picked up a ton of business, and all they had to do, was not be narrow-minded, selfish, or hateful.</p>

D Morrison says …

<p>Great article; unfortunately, the country does not seem to want to hear someone advocating common sense and personal responsibility. It is somewhat out of my way, but I'll make an extra effort to shop at Whole Foods in the future!</p>

YW says …

<p>My husband and I have a small business and we make more than $250,000 a year. I also shop daily at Whole Foods. I Spend at least $2,000 a month at your store. And we support President Obama's health care.<br> Do you know why?<br> We pay $1,200/month for the health insurance and it's getting more and more expensive every year. We make enough money to pay for it for now, but how about other small business owners? Or someone who lost a job?</p> <p>I'm from Japan. You could get into a Government plan if you lose a job or become a small business owner. My father got an operation 1 week after his doctor found a cancer. He never need to wait to see his doctor. It's just a plain lie that you can't chose your doctor if the government controls the plan. </p> <p>Isn't it better if there's another cheaper choice which will force private insurance companies to lower their premium? Isn't it better more people are insured so that overall medical cost becomes less?</p> <p>I think you only care your wealth, Mr. CEO. I love Whole Foods and your employees, but I haven't bought a thing since the article. You should know your customers better!</p>

a concerned citizen says …

<p>Sorry, but you sir are a crack pot. Your words are hollow and you stand on shaky ground with falsifying and obfuscating your original comments. I will do my part in a growing movement to expand a national boycott of your company and to provide information on healthier (and cheaper) local alternatives to consumers.</p>

Adam Cox says …

<p>As a PR practioner in the UK I'm not the most clued up on US Health Reforms. But as a UK outsider looking in it does seem to be a massive PR disaster for a Chief Executive to annoy a key target audience to the level that these posts demonstrate. Even those positive posts from conservatives will further annoy your liberal customer base.<br> I praise the courage of your convictions but it may be worth knowing that we had a similar case in the UK involving Gerald Ratner of Ratners Jewellers who lost £500m of his companies share price with one badly thought out speech: <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Ratner" rel="nofollow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Ratner</a><br> As a lesson in bad PR it will be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks for WFM'¦</p>

A former Shoper says …

<p>I'm really surprised at just how ignorant you are about how business really works in society. Or else you think your customers do not understand or comprehend the world we live in. </p> <p>I suggest you post this on the door of every WF. Better yet I'll hand it out to your customers and see how many desire to continue shopping at WF after reading it. Everyone should know what WF corporate thinking is.</p>

Dr. Luke Lucas says …

<p>I have shopped at WF for over a year, spending upward of $400 at a time. I will no longer be shopping there. I see your Board of Directors has no diversity and apparently no understanding of who your true market reflects. I am so happy that you wrote the op-ed piece. It shed much light on the terrible philosophical state of you and your company. Socialized government is what we already are. It protects us from garbage in the food chain that capitalists might ignore for the sake of a dollar. I hope your company changes its views and lowers its prices. Good-bye. Stay out of POLITICS!!!!</p>

henry coutu says …

<p>I too am not comfortable with the idea of an intrinsic right to health care. Ultimately, however, health care must be handled nationally in order to be effective financially and not ruinous. The only way to contain costs and provide universal health is to eliminate the profit motive from our health system. Making big dollars should not coexist with keeping people healthy. This will take time. Right now the issue is tearing our country apart. I will not consider voting for any Republican on any level until we have reached a single payer system. Nor will I freely buy at Whole Foods again if I learn of viable store alternatives.</p>

GerneyLee Carter says …

<p>I would truely like to be the voice of reason, however it seems to me that anything I say to support Universal Health Care will be villified by the Right Wing Republicans who keep repeating the word ' Socialism -.<br> I am seeing Health Care Reform to be almost as divisive as the Civil War where brother fought against brother and they hated each other while doing so. This is occuring in my own family. There is the faction of the family who is eduated and retired ' or one married her education and retired ' retired with those retirement benefits that afford them a doctor everytime the burb ' then their are those of us (siblings) who are high school graduates, blue and pink collar works since the late 1950 and mid 1960s. The Blue collar worker earned little and the pink collar worker earned half of what the blue collar earned. The two siblings one educated, one married her education dispise those who do not have their health insurance ' and consider it their own fault. I ask who is to work at the bakeries, stock the shelfs in the stores and do the administrative asistant work in this world? Friends, it is your brothers and sisters many of whom find themselves unable to even have a doctor because WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE DOCTORS WILL NOT TAKE YOU AS A PATIENT. Most Right Wing comfortable citizens do not even know that you cannot get a doctor without insurance. On a blue collar or pink collar salary (providing you do not hate and resent people for BEING pink or blue collar workers)one cannot, cannot buy private health insurance. You have shelter and food or you have health insurance.<br> I agree and live and support Mr. Mackey's values on healthy living to keep disease and illness down ' which is the greater sin, actually, in this country that big business through adversting controls minds to buy and consume food products that cause illness and disease thus driving up health care costs. That too MUST be addressed at some point.<br> But right now this country needs to be as wise as all other first world nations and take care of its citizens for the good of the whole ' a sick citizenry makes a weak country. Why does not anyone see that Health Care is not personal at all ' it determins the strength of the nation.<br> thanks for listening ' support Universal Health Care'¦</p>

nimraks says …

<p>I will still do my $500.00 weekly shopping at WFM. I would walk 200 miles to get a WFM. Bravo Mr. Mackey! Keep up the great work'¦ Thanks, A loyal Customer</p>

Scott says …

<p>Thank you Mr. Mackey for your illuminating op-ed. To begin with, your piece espouses many lies and half-truths about the health care plan. Health care reform will NOT create a 'massive new health care entitlement' nor is it moving us 'closer to a complete governmental takeover of our health care system.' I wonder if you voiced such opposition to Bush's unnecessary wars which certainly created 'hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits.'<br> Thus, please be aware that I will no longer shop at Whole Foods as I do not want my money to support 'health-scare' misinformation campaigns. I will encourage everyone I know to do the same.</p>

Susan Ryan says …

<p>WF's recent 'apology' for Mr. Mackey's op/ed piece has only made me angrier, if that's possible. Their suggestion that he was just expressing his personal opinion, and not that of the company's strains credulity. And the claim that he never mentioned President Obama and therefore was not attacking his plan is laugable ' gee, let me think, who/what could he have been refering to? Oh yes, and the claim that it has all been misintepreted because the WSJ changed the title?? Please. Do you think your customers are that dense? Mr. Mackey's words speak for themselves. To suggest that he actually 'supports' health care reform is deeply insulting to all who truly wish to have meaningful health care reform in this country. His ideas ' that insurance companies be given completely free rein to decide what and whom to cover is reflective of someone who doesn't have to worry about his own health care, and besides, we already have that ' and look how well that is working out. And his ideas that health care costs are being driven up by voluntary over-consumption of heath care is a canard that conservatives love to trumpet. Really, how many people do you know that love to go to the doctor? Yeah, there are so many of us that are just dying to have the latest in heart surgery or maybe just a spin in the MRI machine. Health care costs are being driven up in part by 'end of life' care that in many cases is useless, except perhaps in prolonging the agony of the dying. But efforts to try to find a better way of dealing with end of life care have been torpedoed by the conservative crazies, who seem to have no problem at all with the real 'death panels,' the insurance companies. Somehow it's ok for them to 'ration' care in a way that fattens their profits. But from Mr. Mackey's point of view, this is all ok, since there is no 'right' to health care. Ah the wonders of the free market. Too poor or too sick to get health care, just too bad I guess. What a guy. I won't be shopping at WF as long as Mr. Mackey and/or his ilk are in charge.</p>

C. Reaves says …

<p>No, Mr. Mackay ' you can't pretend you were offering your own opinions separate from Whole Foods. You were on the WSJ op-ed page exactly because you are the CEO. Your op-ed was good business for Whole Foods.</p> <p>I shopped at WFs about once every two weeks because it is a 15 mile trip for me, but I won't be shopping there any longer. Your op-ed piece parroted the misrepresentations and lies about health care reform that I have seen coming from powerful corporations with money at stake. I now ad Whole Foods to that list.</p> <p>Your company clearly has a great PR department, but you have drawn the wool from my eyes. Thank you for that, at least.</p>

Sem says …

<p>This is America, Mr. Mackey, and you have every right to express your personal opinion.</p> <p>This is America, Mr. Mackey'go out and walk the streets and look in the faces of millions of folks who can neither afford to shop in your stores or pay for appropriate heath care.</p> <p>This is America, Mr. Mackey, and I'm glad I have a choice of where to spend my food dollars. It will no longer be at Whole Foods.</p>

Robin says …

<p>For-profit health care does not work. Why should companies make a profit at the cost of my health? And what good is a tax deduction for health care which could be bigger than a year's earnings for some people? I'm off Whole Foods now, too and the comments on this board saying that people won't boycott for long are wrong. I lived in Austria and Germany for over 20 years with absolutely wonderful care and personal options under government run health care. </p> <p>If the industries lobbying against a government health care system would be willing to spend that much to help the uninsured obtain/keep medical coverage &amp; care instead, we'd all be covered.</p>

Rick Cain says …

<p>Oy vey, where do I start?</p> <p>1. Remove the legal obstacles which slow the creation of high deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts. </p> <p>Rebuttal: We already have this, high deductible insurance plans have been around for years, costs still are spiraling out of control'¦NEXT!</p> <p>2. Change the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have exactly the same tax benefits.</p> <p>Rebuttal: And exactly WHY should private insurance companies get a free tax subsidy from the government?</p> <p>3. Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. </p> <p>Rebuttal: Ever hear of States Rights? Yes as a libertarian you should know this, yet you sound like a Federalist when you spew this garbage. If you want to offer insurance in a state you play by its rules</p> <p>4. Repeal all government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. </p> <p>Rebuttal: Mandates are a response to insurance companies selectively refusing coverage for people. They created the problem when they forgot about serving the customer in favor of keeping the CEO's bonus package.</p> <p>5. Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors into paying insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.</p> <p>Rebuttal: Lawsuits are a tiny fraction of insurance costs. Ironically, with 'Tort Reform' in place, you can't sue your insurance company, but they have no laws preventing them from suing YOU. </p> <p>6. Make health care costs transparent so that consumers will understand what health care treatments cost. </p> <p>Rebuttal: Blame the free market, not government. This sounds like you WANT government to force the free market to disclose, for shame you adam smith guy! Getting an item by item bill from a hospital can be pretty tough, but its not the government's fault.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Rebuttal: Medicare has 3% cost overhead, private insurance has 21-40% cost overhead on average. Lets be honest about which one needs reform.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Rebuttal: Oh please, spare me. If you really want to help the government, just give them some money Mackey, don't guilt the middle class into donating.</p> <p>All in all the most useless list I've ever seen to 'fix our healthcare'.</p> <p>You sound more like an insurance agent than vegetable salesman.</p> <p>Rick Cain<br> feel the pain</p>

Donald says …

<p>In response to your well written article, I applaud your offering some suggestions. Personally, what you say may very well be accurate. And there is no doubt that eating whole foods (no necessarily from your store)instead of fast foods loaded with addictive oils and sugars, stuffed with hidden calories, and made with inferior products logically has to benefit people. There is a reason fast food companies spend alot on research and advertising/packaging.<br> As far as the health care problem, I suggest that congress sets up an investigative team to go through the present health codes and clean them up first. The bulk of this could likely be rewritten, amended, and in layman's language. Then, one step at a times, the health cars system will change. Won't take long to see some improvement that non laywers could read also. All things considered, I think it should be Omaba's job to stop throwing money around and clean up the government system, including the latest computer and software that is capable of really tracking trillions of dollars accurately that could furnish immediate totals that could be compared and rewritten as needed until transparancy is actually available.Fix America first and then help the world! After we get this system perfected, then we can really offer some help to other countries. At least you have suggestions instead of just whining!</p>

Kirk says …

<p>By quoting Thatcher and throwing around words like 'socialist,' you remove yourself from reasoned debate. I assume you oppose Social Security and Medicare, those being much more 'socialist' than anything being proposed by Congress in regards to health care.</p> <p>I suspect that the proposals you make are in fact, very similar to what will end up passing the Congress. This is less a measure of the strength of your arguments and more a reflection of the degree to which Congress is owned by corporate interests, like yours. I also believe that members of both parties who thus sell out to the giant health insurance and pharmaceutical monopolies will suffer in the re-election campaigns, as a result.</p> <p>As for your own company, have you ever inquired as to what percentage of Whole Foods target demographic are self-identified socialists? Higher than you think, I would wager!</p> <p>I am a former customer urging everyone I know to continue the boycott of Whole Foods that began when with your assault on workers' rights earlier this year.</p>

C. Reaves says …

<p>I read the posts of supporters who swear they will be lifetime customers and laugh. These are people who probably never heard of Whole Foods before yesterday. You should know your customer base Mr. Mackey, and if you believe the people here who swear you will gain two customers for every one you have lost you are sadly mistaken. Do you really think the conservatives who won't support health care for other Americans are going to buy shade-grown coffee or sustainable fish at five times the cost of their regular canned tuna? Dream on, Mr. Mackey.</p> <p>Yours has surely been one of the most inept and self-destructive CEO moments since Bob Nardelli's stockholder meeting at Home Depot'¦ and we all know what happened to his job.</p>

Melinda M. Snodgrass says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>I have been a customer at Whole Foods ever since you first opened in New Mexico. No longer. Your remarks in your health care article were disingenuous at best and malicious at worst. Yes, American's eating habits are atrocious, but not every disease can be cured with an organic apple.</p> <p>I am a very successful writer and business woman and because of a chronic disease I am _unable_ to purchase health insurance because of this pre-existing condition and the greed of insurance companies. </p> <p>I am praying that the President succeeds in passing health care reform, and that I can at last sleep easy knowing I have coverage and not every illness threatens me with the loss of my home and assets.</p> <p>You have done a disservice to this critical debate. Shame on you,.</p>

Allison says …

<p>I think your opinion on health care would be taken a lot more seriously by some if you did not make such generalizations and fallacious claims about other health care systems such as in Canada or the U.K. Are their systems perfect? No. No system is perfect, but they aren't going through nearly as much of a health care crisis as we are. </p> <p>Also, we've got no intrinsic right to highways or transportation, but the government subsidizes them. We have no intrinsic right to correspond with others, but we have a post office (with competition, I may add). Why not do the same with health care?</p>

veryhappyshopper says …

<p>Dear Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>A million bravo's to you. It made me so happy to read your editorial. I travel a considerable distance every week to shop at Whole Foods. I will continue to do so with much enthusiasm and will definitely make Whole Foods my primary market.<br> Thank you so much for your important contribution to this critical issue.</p>

angel says …

<p>Wow, why have you single handedly destroyed your brand!? I have to say, I did not think it possible that a CEO, especially of a company whose values 'seemed' to be so positive and responsible, could act with such sophomoric recklessness.</p>

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