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.

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

Anna Jhirad says …

<p>As someone from a family of physicians (4 generations of them), I am appalled by your article. You clearly have no understanding of the health care issues facing this country and the ways in which our health care system is being skewered by CEOs with your callous point of view. </p> <p>You're spouting the old empty bankrupt ideas that crop up every time a national leader tries to improve the health care system. The garbage about not wanting 'socialized medicine' is a tired refrain by people who refuse to look at what is happening to America. We're being reduced'by people like you'to the status of a Third World country. </p> <p>Doctors, who used to be employed by hospitals, are now mere 'contractors', and they have suffered from the loss of their autonomy. Physicians are fighting the fact that medical care is now in the hands of businessmen who often have no medical training and that quality of care is not taken into account in the judgment of a physician's worth. </p> <p>An attorney representing physicians and hospitals testified before the U.S. Congress warned: 'The Norman Rockwell image of the physician making a house call no longer represents medicine as it is practiced in the United States today. The practice of medicine has become a business, a big business. That business is controlled by hospitals, which are concerned about the bottom line, including length of stay issues; it is controlled by insurance companies which may veto proposed treatment of patients; it is controlled by HMO's big business, which may resist expensive treatments recommended by iconoclasts.' </p> <p>We already have a two-tiered system of health care. It's not only the insurance companies which are refusing to cover ill people. Hospitals are in bind, driven by the need for profit and/or burdened by the rising number of uninsured people. So some are forcing out patients they don't want'the poor, the uninsured, and the chronically ill. How do they do it? The hospital routinely throws the sticker price, and sometimes a greatly inflated price, at any patient they do not want. And, they aggressively go after payment even though they know they can't get any money. They send the people to collection agencies and file warrants. They try to maintain a façade of propriety, but recently, they have gotten flagrant at pushing the cost. Their apparent goal is to drive the indigent and the underinsured to other hospitals. </p> <p>You have not taken the time to understand how the drive for profit at the top may be undermining the quality of care for all. Obama's government insurance plan (offered in a basket of private insurance plans from which to choose) is vitally needed. Not just for patients. But for doctors as well. </p> <p>We need serious reform that will regulate the insurance companies, that will extend health care to ALL (it is a right, not a privilege), and that will restore physicians and nurses to their rightful place in the health care system. </p> <p>It's amazing to me that you running a company with so little understanding of your customers and, more tellingly, of the health issues facing the country at large. Your solution is self-serving and cynical'people will get healthier by buying organic foods from your store. How convenient!</p> <p>You do not deserve our business.</p>

Donald Singleton says …

<p>I wonder what type of tax abatements you extort out of local towns cities etc. to bless them with your commerce. </p> <p>I wonder what kind of tax dodges your accountant sets up for you annually at your level of salary.</p> <p>I wonder what the level of health care is for you vs. your employees. </p> <p>Just another box store CEO who is pontificating on what is good for the American people.</p> <p>Well for me that would be passing your store to go to the local farmers market.</p> <p>Not another dime.</p> <p>Doubt this will see daylight on your soapbox.</p>

Kate says …

<p>I am nauseated. Right wing. Left wing. Knee jerk liberals. Damned Democrats. Rotten Republicans. Do you not listen to President Obama's speeches??? It is time to put aside the petty partisan bickering IF we are going to survive this thing, people!!!</p> <p>Now about the health care issue:I pay. You pay. They pay'¦ It's obvious that what we have here is a whole lotta folks who HAVE insurance &amp; good insurance, to boot. I had cervical cancer several years back. It took me several more years to pay what my insurance didn't cover ' all because the surgeon chose his buddies as support staff, ignoring my instructions to use staff covered by my insurance. I'm just lucky that the providers were amenable to making payment arrangements. Teachers are grossly underpaid ' esp. those of us in the trenches @ inner city schools. We literally put our lives on the line to help make life better for our students. And this is the thanks we get. </p> <p>Last year, there was no funding for the reading position I'd been in for the prior 2 years. I was not informed of this until school was ready to start ' too late to get another position for the school year, so I took the opportunity to 'live' on the unemployment &amp; take classes toward another Master's degree. Settle down ' I'm on a scholarship ' I didn't spend 'your' tax dollars. I'm very lucky ' some might say blessed ' that I did not have any medical problems. It was close to a miracle that I had no sinus infections and no migraines. I don't know what I would have done. Duct tape maybe??? </p> <p>This is the first time in my life that I was unable to afford insurance ' even crappy employer choice insurance. It was terrifying @ first, then I just had no choice but to settle into it &amp; hope for the best. No matter how you eat, how much exercise or sleep you get, if you step off a curb &amp; break you ankle, if you are attacked by cancer, a respiratory infection or the common cold, you will need medical attention. I am one of the lucky ones. I have no children. </p> <p>Please run to the library &amp; read The Haves and The Haves Nots by Dr. Seuss. There is a lesson there for those of you who are practicing divisive politics. AND, let President Obama do his job. It's a new day. Get over yourselves.</p>

Mike says …

<p>I don't agree with Mackey's healthcare views (stick to business). They have been refuted elsewhere by those who know much more about healthcare. Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) has a niche market and it will be interesting to see how his stance affects the company, its shareholders and employees My family and I will be shopping elsewhere until Mackey goes to work someplace else.</p>

Ellen says …

<p>I'm the survivor of four different kinds of cancer (and I'm slender and athletic) and I'm also the parent of a young adult who has been disabled since his very premature birth. You make me sick! My oncologist told me to shop at whole foods after the last cancer was diagnosed, but I'll never go back again.</p>

Sam Morrow says …

<p>I suspected we would be hearing from you regarding the response to your WSJ article. This situation in your view is likely out of control, and now you have to put your best spin on it. I suppose your company has spent millions on advertising to persuade customers to shop at Whole Foods because you have the best interest of their health. You are a hypocrite. Now that I know your true colors I will not be shopping at the Cedar Rd store in Cleveland ever again.</p>

Julie says …

<p>Bravo! You are spot on correct! Thank you for having the courage to speak out.</p>

David Groff says …

<p>Mr. Mackey, your scheme to reform health care is impractical, elitist, and selfish. I can't support a company whose CEO propogates such anti-humanist views. So even though it will be a big inconvenience to me, I will spend my $100 a week on other grocery stores, not at Whole Foods.</p>

Scott Graham says …

<p>Mr. Mackey is right that more healthy eating is part of the solution. Here's another: biking an extra two miles to Trader Joe's so that my hard-earned money doesn't get wasted in the promotion of right-wing talking points against health insurance reform. High-deductible plans will do nothing for the legions of uninsured or under-insured in this country, but they certainly benefit the bottom line of health insurers, who fatten their pockets through REAL 'death panels.' Sayonara, Whole Foods!</p>

C. Reaves says …

<p>Mr. Mackey, I simply DO NOT BELIEVE your statement that the WSJ edited your op-ed piece. Newspapers do not do that. Let me repeat that: Newspapers Do Not Edit Op-Ed Pieces.</p> <p>You had to have given your consent to any changes, and that makes them YOUR opinions, not a mistake.</p> <p>This false claim is just more PR, more backtracking, more misrepresentation, and more insight into your character.</p>

David says …

<p>Bravo! You sir, are a courageous soul and I applaud you for it. </p> <p>While I don't totally agree with all parts of your world view, I find your efforts to put forth viable and realistic options for improving health care nothing less than inspiring. Please continue to stand up for realistic, intelligent change in our world.</p> <p>I am a stockholder and will be purchasing more on Monday.</p>

Christen says …

<p>All of you who are boycotting Whole Foods because their CEO doesn't agree with you politically ' you had better get used to boycotting a TON of other companies.</p> <p>Kudos to you John. I have always admired your political views (of course I do, I agree with you!) and the WSJ article was fantastic.</p> <p>I expect that we will get some more health care reform (as if gov't meddling in insurance and health care hasn't been awful enough) and that it will be awful. If any plan goes through you bet the first thing I'm going to do is find a black market doctor to barter/pay cash to avoid the lines we're going to get. The US is many times larger than any country that has universal health care and it's going to be a nightmare.</p> <p>I HOPE I'm wrong (and you are too). I fear I'm not.</p> <p>Thanks John, I'm a fan of you and Whole Foods.</p>

K KHAN says …

<p>Mr Mackey shgould focus more on running his business and taking care of his employees than getting involved in national polital scams. BAD FOR BUSINESS. </p> <p>His ego has gotten the best of him. He's making winners out of the insurance companies and losers out of all of us. If he doesn't like socialism than he doesn't believe in Social Security or Medicare either. He built a great business he should keep his political opinions to himself. He doesn't have to help the less fortunate, we can have our poor starving to death while the rich get richer.</p>

Ashley says …

<p>My celiac disease support group, which has almost 50 member families, voted last night to stop shopping at either of our local Whole Foods, where literally all of us have done our shopping until now, routinely spending an average of $400 per family each week due to our special needs.</p> <p>Blaming this on the Journal or anything else doesn't help. The fact is, you made a conscious decision to associate yourself, and therefore your brand, with a strong, polarizing stance on an issue that clearly has a greater direct impact on some of us much more than it does on you. No CEO in their right mind would allow this to happen, and yet you invited this by simply agreeing to write the article in the first place. Hopefully, other CEOs will learn from this and understand that, sometimes, they just need to shut up.</p>

David Cameron says …

<p>Mr. Mackey,</p> <p>A compassionate, well written, informed, spot-on article. Thank you for speaking-out and thus, you're willingness to 'take the hits' from the uninformed. I'm afraid that you're wise words, based on the concepts of Freedom &amp; Liberty, will be lost on the majority who've unwittingly embraced socialism generations ago. </p> <p>Our grand experiment with Freedom is nearly over. Being drowned out by the masses who demand more &amp; more government services and social 'benefits'. I would offer one suggestion to every reader who disagrees with you: READ THE CONSTITUTION.</p> <p>Congress has NO constitutional authorization to enact nationalized (socialized) health care. </p> <p>Apparently, the majority are afraid of Freedom, and always have been. Because, quite frankly they don't understand it. Or, are unwilling to accept the requisite personal responsibility in entails. They demand their government safety net are willing to trade-in their freedom to have it. </p> <p>By the way, thank you for bringing fresh, local, healthy, organic, non-GMO foods to my neighborhood.</p>

R McKeon says …

<p>I used to make the trek out to WF to buy GFCF foods for my autistic daughter. No more. You've completely lost my business.</p>

David says …

<p>Could someone who objects to 'socialism' offer a way to provide health care coverage to 75-year-olds without it.</p> <p>Most of Mr. Mackey's proposals are just cut-and-pasted from various anti-reform efforts. Nothing much was interesting at all in them. The high-deductible program works if your employee base is younger than the average employee base. </p> <p>There is absolutely nothing that stops insurance companies from selling insurance in every single state. If they don't sell in a particular state, it was a decision on their part not to seek the right to sell in that state because they did not want to deal with the consumer protection regulations that have been developed over many years in response to insurance companies. HMOs are different, but they also have special federal protections.</p> <p>The tort reform complaint ignore how much malpractice goes on in medicine. If doctors cleaned up their act, there would not be a problem.</p> <p>I agree that some things like chiropractic should not be covered by health insurance, but repealing all mandates leaves people with no idea what they have purchased. It's a bad idea. </p> <p>It was irresponsible to offer misleading claims about health care in other countries. Of all of the developed nations, the United States spends twice as much per capita, has the highest rate of uninsured and has the poorest health outcomes. We do not have a very good health care system at all. Why do you want to keep it?</p>

D J Brown says …

<p>What irresponsible drivel! </p> <p>1)In promoting high deductible health savings accounts, you allege that significant savings can be offered through the plan and that insureds can quickly save $2,500 with careful spending decisions the first year. Unfortunately, people can not 'carefully' apportion health care expenses. These programs offer savings to healthy, young singles who forego annual medical check ups and doctor visits. Others find, as I did, that one trip to the ER with an asthmatic four-year old will eliminate any 'savings' and leave behind a mailbox full of bills.</p> <p>2)Offering impoverished or working class people a tax deduction for health insurance is not a viable solution. The problem with this proposed 'solution' is that it requires people to divert money from their paychecks to fund insurance they can't afford. People who live paycheck-to-paycheck will not be able to spend $8,000 to $12,000 for insurance ' even if they don't have to pay taxes on the money. Mr. Mackay, the fact that you would even proposed this as a 'solution' shows you are out-of-touch with the plight of the uninsured in America. </p> <p>3)The proposal of allowing insurance companies to sell policies nationwide is also unacceptable and would likely lead to a degradation of available coverage. State regulations for insurance companies vary widely and, if permitted, all insurance companies would base their organizations in the state that offered the least oversight and restrictions. As a result, all other states would lose the opportunity to govern and regulate the companies to protect their own citizens. I am surprised to find that any opponent of healthcare reform would support a position that would eliminate 'state's rights' in this way.</p> <p>4)Allowing insurance companies the opportunity to choose what conditions they will cover is an amusing suggestion. One can imagine how eagerly insurance providers will offer to cover conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Only the savviest ' and richest ' consumer would be able to parse through competing policies to ensure that a policy afforded the broadest possible coverage. Caveat emptor ' and read the fine print for hidden exclusions. </p> <p>5)There is no need in this country for further tort reform to reduce medical malpractice claims. Although public perception in this area is lagging far behind the realities of practice, there is no widespread abuse by plaintiff's lawyers in bringing frivolous claims against hospitals and doctors. Medical malpractice claims are so excruciatingly expensive to file and time consuming to handle, that plaintiff's lawyers only accept 'slam dunk' cases. These are cases in which the malpractice is patently obvious to even a lay person and the damages are horrific. It should be noted, however, that if our country managed to reduce the costs of health care, malpractice awards that include costs of continued care will necessarily be reduced. </p> <p>6)The only proposal that you have suggested to have any merit is for transparency in the costs of medical treatment. On that issue, we can agree.</p> <p>7)If Medicare is headed for bankruptcy as you assert, certainly we are in dire need of immediate, comprehensive health care reform. We must urge our senators and representatives to act without delay. Medicare provides excellent coverage to many who would otherwise join the ranks of the uninsured. It is important that all U.S. citizens be afforded the luxury of comprehensive coverage. </p> <p> <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_cool.gif" alt="8)" class="wp-smiley"> I have no objection to allowing individuals to make voluntary donations to programs to help the uninsured, but this is not a solution. We already have the opportunity to donate to help wildlife and abused children on our IRS forms and, although the donation money must certainly help, it has never been enough to eradicate the problems.</p>

SAMBALAM says …

<p><strong>flaming</strong> I wonder what type of tax abatements you extort out of local towns cities etc. to bless them with your commerce. </p> <p>I wonder what kind of tax dodges your accountant sets up for you annually at your level of salary.</p> <p>I wonder what the level of health care is for you vs. your employees. </p> <p>Just another box store CEO who is pontificating on what is good for the American people.</p> <p>Well for me that would be passing your store to go to the local farmers market.</p> <p>Not another dime.</p> <p>Doubt this will see daylight on your soapbox.</p>

Steven Hammer says …

<p>Thanks for sharing to a wide audience your logical and effective alternatives to the current health care 'reform' proposals. There is no Whole Foods grocery in our town, but my wife and I drive to Whole Foods to stock up when possible. We appreciate your efforts and will make every effort to patronize Whole Foods as frequently as we are able.</p>

Dan Bernard says …

<p>So sorry you are a right-wing shill. Good-bye to your store. My local corporate market carries most of the same products and at least have the good sense to keep their politics hidden. Who knew someone with such a nice chain of feel-good stores doesn't do his homework? Obviously, right-wingers are rallying to try to undo your besmirched reputation, but they are found out before too long in their crude, transparent efforts to trumpet their 'patriotism.' Pathetic.</p>

Tom Hughes says …

<p>John Mackey is entitled to his opinions on health caare reform. I just wish he could see how extreme he is becoming and how irrelevant.</p>

Mike says …

<p>I have a growing family. We had recently been shopping at WF more and more frequently. Never again. </p> <p>You've made it clear that Whole Foods is more concerned with advocating narrow libertarian ideological purity than meaningful health care reform.</p> <p>We will never step foot in a WF store so long as you remain CEO.</p>

David says …

<p>For years I've wondered why Whole Foods constantly reduced the number of foods it stocked that were actually healthy so that it could fill the shelves to overflowing with chocolate, the same 'nutrition' bars I can find at the A&amp;P, and non-organically grown produce. Now I have a clearer sense of it. Listen, I can buy organic produce at WalMart and get the same political advice. Any health care reform that doesn't cover the uninsured and doesn't make sure that sick people won't lose their insurance ' and your suggestions do neither of those things ' is not the right solution. And nothing will change as long as doing the right thing is less important to these clowns than getting re-elected is.</p>

Karl Wilder says …

<p>I am all for a preventive diet, one needs vegetables and fruits and they should comprise most of what we eat. </p> <p>However, they do not prevent car accidents. </p> <p>Few employers care what happens to their corporate slaves and the insurance industry functions as death squads living to deny benefits and make profits. </p> <p>Single payer, coverage for everyone is the only compassionate way to go.</p>

Robert Patt-Corner says …

<p>Thank you for your WSJ piece. I was having trouble convincing my wife to join my boycott of WF over your stand against the Employee Free Choice Act. As she said, you can't boycott every evil corporation, and the fish is good.</p> <p>But your WSJ editorial attacking health care changes my family needs has turned the tide.</p> <p>You'll not be seeing us '¦ or our friends if things go well '¦ soon.</p> <p>Too bad '¦ good food, bad prices, worse social policies.</p>

Elizabeth says …

<p><strong>flaming</strong> In case anybody has forgotten what kind of foolishness we can expect from Mackey: <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20101020182743/http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html</a></p> <p>This latest is of course, much more serious. The man needs to go. (Unless that is, those commenting in support of his op-ed really start shopping at Whole Foods.)</p> <p>Elizabeth</p>

Leanne says …

<p>The IDEA of 'humanitarianism' is one thing'the inevitable economic REALITY of a system with backwards incentives is another. I love your suggestion about donating to Medicaid, SCHIP if you so choose. To all the disgruntled liberal customers: If you truly believe in helping with other people's healthcare, then donate YOUR money or volunteer YOUR time at a free clinic or nursing home. Don't tell physicians what they can or cannot charge for their services, or how insurance companies (some of which, by the way, are NON-PROFIT) can assess risk. Medical care is a SERVICE, not a God-given right.</p> <p>In short, THANK YOU for your courage and common sense. My nearest Whole Foods is an hour away, but I'll be making the trip on Monday in your honor!</p>

Ann Flynn says …

<p>I am tired of the lucky people who think they are healthy because they eat right and exercise. I have never smoked, I have a glass of wine twice a week, I eat right and exercise. I have ulcerative colitis, an auto-immune disease. There is no cure and they do not know the cause. I do not know what I would do without health insurance. One pill that I must take 3x per day costs $8. per pill. Good luck Mr. Mackey, I will not be shopping at your store until you show some compassion.</p>

Heather says …

<p>John-</p> <p>As a former WF customer, I read your comments in WSJ with increasing dismay. You say you want an open dialogue on health care, unfortunately your first quote about Socialism from Thatcher belies that fact and is the same talking point that the opponents of reform use. You are correct that eating right and exercising are a part of prevention but there are also heredity factors that determine one's health.From what you write, those people, including myself, are out of luck.Perhaps your company should lower their prices and build a store in a lower middle class area so the poor can benefit from your healthy organic food. From what you write, those people, including myself, are out of luck.</p> <p>We are the only first world country that does not see health care as a right for everyone'¦most of these countries have better mortality rates then the US. As a 'socially progressive' company, I'm not sure where you're ideas come from but they aren't the same values as most of your customers.</p> <p>You are well within your right to voice your opinion. But I hope you recognize that as a CEO, your values reflect on your company. Which why is why I'm joining the boycott.</p>

kat says …

<p>It seems like we ALL spend a tremendous amount of time stating our own opinions, views and experience with less and less practical experience of 'walking a mile in another man's shoes'.</p>

Dawn says …

<p>I find it hilarious that several people who agree with your position try to ridicule those of us who disagree and choose to vote with our wallets against the position you took. I am sure that if you took a liberal stance in the same way, using the Whole Foods brand throughout the article, not just in the unapproved headline. This is not just you and I having a private discussion and disagreeing on our politics. If that were the case, I would likely still shop there. I also do not understand why it is okay for the government to reimburse you as a business owner for offering an insurance plan which is not affordable to people. Isn't that a displacement of resources that we all pay for? I also do not see how tort reform is supposed to make us more free. It seems that lawsuits are frivolous unless it is someone's grandmother or child. Frankly, Mr. Mackey, you are entitled to your opinion but as the CEO of a company, when you use your brand so publicly to try to block the type of health care reform that makes health care more affordable and accessible for regular middle class people like me, I vote with my pocketbook. It's nothing personal and I do not find anything you said to be hateful. No one is forcing anyone in the proposed bill to consider the government plan for themself if they are happy with their HMO or can afford to pay full price for their health care. Frankly, I feel that the health care for profit business is failing the people and this country. I believe that anyone who is trying to block efforts to make health care accessible and affordable for me, a hardworking middle class person who would like an affordable government insurance plan, to be stomping on my rights. It is ludicrous that health care has become a luxury in this country, and THAT is our primary problem. I loved shopping at Whole Foods. I definitely spent over $200 a week in there. I am now going to drive further and support my local organic grocer and hopefully we can keep any potential political differences off the table.</p>

gerry says …

<p>Thank you for an insightful and constructive addition to the health care debate! I am a regular Whole Foods customer and will continue to patronize your stores. </p> <p>It is interesting and revealing that many who disagree with you are intolerant of an opinion different from theirs and want you to shut up.</p>

Dawn says …

<p>I find it hilarious that several people who agree with your position try to ridicule those of us who disagree and choose to vote with our wallets against the position you took. I am sure that if you took a liberal stance in the same way, using the Whole Foods brand throughout the article, not just in the unapproved headline that many of them would feel very differently. This is not just you and I having a private discussion and disagreeing on our politics. If that were the case, I would likely still shop there. I also do not understand why it is okay for the government to reimburse you as a business owner for offering an insurance plan which is not affordable to people. Isn't that a displacement of resources that we all pay for? I also do not see how tort reform is supposed to make us more free. It seems that lawsuits are frivolous unless it is someone's grandmother or child. Frankly, Mr. Mackey, you are entitled to your opinion but as the CEO of a company, when you use your brand so publicly to try to block the type of health care reform that makes health care more affordable and accessible for regular middle class people like me, I vote with my pocketbook. It's nothing personal and I do not find anything you said to be hateful. No one is forcing anyone in the proposed bill to consider the government plan for themself if they are happy with their HMO or can afford to pay full price for their health care. Frankly, I feel that the health care for profit business is failing the people and this country. I believe that anyone who is trying to block efforts to make health care accessible and affordable for me, a hardworking middle class person who would like an affordable government insurance plan, to be stomping on my rights. It is ludicrous that health care has become a luxury in this country, and THAT is our primary problem. I loved shopping at Whole Foods. I definitely spent over $200 a week in there. I am now going to drive further and support my local organic grocer and hopefully we can keep any potential political differences off the table.</p>

William T. says …

<p>I respectfully disagree with your positions on health care, except for the point that many people need to change their lifestyles. But I hardly think organic sugar-loaded cookies and cake from Whole Foods is going to make a difference in their health. As you said, you also sell a bunch of junk. There is plenty healthy food available in other stores too. Frankly, I find it much less expensive and of equal or greater quality elsewhere. I also think it's inappropriate to use the company as a forum for your personal politics as you are doing here. If you wanted to keep your views separate from the company, you should not have used the corporate website to once-again publish your views.</p>

bader hassoon says …

<p>Dear Mr Mackey, What have happen to you. Are you trying to vanish the success you build, for your self and for the communities? my question is ,when did you go to England and wetness people protesting against their health care system.<br> You are hurting us (your customers)and your self for the insurance companies.</p> <p>You need to stop getting the facts from FOX NEWS. they are misleading the public<br> and dividing the country, just like other main stream media.</p>

Ex-Whole Foods Shopper says …

<p>I would like to see you also write a piece on the wrongs committed by insurance companies. </p> <p>Also, to start off with a quote from Margaret Thatcher is the first frightening sign that I will no longer be able to buy my soy milk at your stores. Thatcher is a woman who destroyed so many lives plus the educational system in England.</p> <p>Your ensuing arguments listed here are one-sided, manipulative, and lack a complete comprehension of what it is to be poor. When you are trying to pay your rent and feed your children, high deductibles can be a suicide sentence.</p> <p>Because I once could not afford health insurance, I could not afford annual eye examinations. When my new job's benefits kicked in, it was discovered I had glaucoma, which was thankfully caught in time. Otherwise, I'd be typing this to you on a braille keyboard.</p> <p>I was so looking forward to shopping at your store that was opening on the Upper West Side later this month, a store that has been built in a neighborhood with a high percentage of poor and uninsured inhabitants. I hope many West Siders will boycott your new enterprise. YOU ARE YOUR STORE.</p> <p>To have to do this hurts me deeply, especially because I have been obsessive about your '365'³ frozen fruit bars lately. </p> <p>Sincerely,</p> <p>Heartbroken</p>

Erika says …

<p>I have been a loyal customer at your Rockville and Silver Spring stores for years. That is the last you will be seeing of me and my money. Harris Teeter, My Organic Market and Giant will be receiving my grocery dollars from now on. There are so many things wrong with your editorial it is difficult to know where to begin. How about this: the current system and the one you are advocating allow for no protections for consumers in the individual market. Insurance companies can find any pretext to deny a claim, and the consumer has little practical recourse. I hope your revenues take a big hit on this, you deserve it.</p>

Elizabeth Cabraser says …

<p>I was disappointed to read both versions of your O)p-Ed, as submitted and as published. you have the right to your opinion, but I am relieved you are not in a position to implement it. Classic 'let them eat cake' attitude clothed in the platitudes of freedom. Today, most Americans have no freedom to choose, and no ability to obtain, basic healthcare. Healthcare has been corrupted from a professional medical institution to a for-profit private enterprise. those with the means to afford it- and I am one- are paying far too much, for far too little. Those who cannot afford it go without. The high costs of our present system do not come primarily from phantoms like litigation costs or regulation- there is actually too little of either to force the system to be responsive. Instead, health care has become a commodity, from which those who add little or no value profit the most. Health care reform will do what you, Mr. Mackey, appear to fear most: it will take health care away from an unregulated marketplace, and give it back to health care professional s and their patients. Sorry to part ways with Whole Foods, but just as you have the freedom to speak your mind, we have the freedom not to subsidize views we believe exemplify the attitudes that lead to our economic collapse and have nothing constructive to offer our society.</p>

Elliott says …

<p>Why would you say this in public Mr. Mackey about whole foods 'sell a bunch of junk' ? Your true colors have come out. Thanks you for letting us know what you really think so we can take our business else were.</p> <p>I agree with Ben Wyskida of The Nation Magazine when he writes, 'The bottom line for me, reading Mackey's op-ed, is that by shopping at Whole Foods I'm giving money to a Republican and I am supporting by proxy a donation to the RNC and to health-scare front groups like Patients First. I don't give money to Republicans, so I will have to cross Whole Foods off my list.'</p>

D. Thompson says …

<p>Sorry, Mr. Mackey, but hiding behind the fact that the WSJ changed your headline doesn't change the reality that the content of your op-ed was completely out of step with the core values of your most dedicated patrons. Starting off with a reference to socialism, you then managed to reference most of the right-wing talking points out there about health care reform. Here's the reality: My wife just got laid off. If I lose my job, we lose our insurance. Period. Your 'pass the hat' solution to our potential loss of insurance provides me zero confidence.<br> My wife and I enjoyed going to your Oregon stores, shopping in Tualatin and Portland about once a month. No more. We'll be taking our money to LifeSource and Trader Joe's.</p>

Andrew says …

<p>You are spot on with your assesment Mr. Mackey. Competition and choice are the corner stones for achieving effective, lower cost health care. These results can only be achieved by getting the government *out* of the way rather than further in it. Less government intervention is truly the only approach to bringing good health care to all.</p> <p>I applaud your willingness to state your opinion despite the fact that Whole Foods clientele is likely skewed towards more well-off, liberal folks who are in favor of government run health care. I am happy to be a continuing Whole Foods customer.</p>

Connor says …

<p>I thought your editorial was reasonable and nonpartisan. Why would anyone on the left object to making the healthcare 'system' less corporate?</p> <p>At any rate, I currently shop at Whole Foods for wines and other specialty items but I intend to give your stores even more of my shopping dollars ' not for the content of your editorial, but because it has also spurred me to think more about my food choices.</p>

Oliver Scofield says …

<p>Dear Wholefoods </p> <p>Believe it or not my household spends in excess of about $450 a week at the Colorado Springs store. We visit probably 5 times a week and often one or two of us are there at different times on the same day. </p> <p>We are happy to sacrifice on other items but not our food for lunch and dinner. </p> <p>I am from Australia ' we have an excellent health system which has a strong vibrant public sector which Australians are really proud of. </p> <p>Your comments are naivie in the extreme and seek to perpetuate a system that suits the rich ie you. Decent afforable health care is in fact a right and an obligation for every competent government. This does not equate to unfettered access to every test, every new drug and every intervention fad. However it does mean that everyone has the righ to the same level of health care that you enjoy John. </p> <p>Your list of solutions might well be rational but without a mechanism to spread the risk across the whole population a new scheme could not work and your current health services will be subsumed by the unchecked and mishandled/misdirected demands on the system. </p> <p>Just as you believe people (ie poor people ' and in this case the working middle class) are not entitled to assume access to decent health care then nor should you feel entitled to assume that I wish to keep providing you fat profits so you can work to undermine the interests of fellow Americans and more incredibly the sentiments of your loyal customers. </p> <p>Thankfully we have a new organic option that just opened up on Dublin and Academy. </p> <p>I think highly of the WF stores and I would be happy with the company disowning itself of the opinions you wrote. </p> <p>I will go into the store and complain loudly and clearly to management and explain why we are going to spend as much as we can elsewhere. </p> <p>I hope that you enjoy as much consumer backlash that the health system here causes. Until we hear a retraction from Wholefoods we will look to move us much as our purchasing power away from you. </p> <p>I am disgusted</p> <p>Oliver Scofield</p>

Rob D'Amico says …

<p>John, your solution is to keep millions of Americans uninsured and hope that healthy lifestyles and savings accounts fulfill the need for health care. Great ideas if you have 20-30 years of intense education and a change in the way corporate America runs our country.</p> <p>Until then, children will go without adequate health care'¦but hey, I guess it's their fault and responsibility, right?</p> <p>I used to shop at WF 2-3 times a week. The thought of going there now and paying the exorbitant prices you charge'¦well, it makes me sick.</p>

Saeed says …

<p>I don't think you're a villain by any means, but I disagree with your argument. I won't be shopping at Whole Foods for a while.</p>

Adar Hoffman says …

<p>If your editorial were in a story by Charles Dickens we would all be squirming at the mean spirited words you wrote. Think 'A Christmas Carol' for a moment. We would also smugly say that we are not like that. </p> <p>But you are. True, there is no specific right to health care in our Constitution. But we have always been a generous country. Our 'socialist' programs (Social Security, Medicare) have helped millions. </p> <p>If you think a better answer is to get richer people to donate money you are in lala land. Reform of our current programs, including 'end of life' issues, which irresponsible folks on your side of the issue have called Death Panels, will help save plenty of money.</p> <p>I have spent fortunes overpaying at Whole Foods because I believe in healthy eating in general and as as a preventive way to keep health costs down. But I will be taking my business elsewhere from now on. </p> <p>You have truly turned me off Whole Foods.</p>

Tom Stamper says …

<p>I don't understand the outrage leveled against you. The point of shopping at Whole Foods is to rely on healthy living to avoid the medical system as much as possible. A government medical plan is going to disproportionately subsidize the very people who eat junk food and let themselves go. </p> <p>Those of us who shop at Whole Foods for health reasons benefit the most from a free market system. I guess I overestimated the number of pretentious people who shop there only to make themselves feel socially conscious. </p> <p>I'm happy that you stood up for the consumer and I'll be back to Whole Foods again and again.</p>

DJM says …

<p>Sir: You need to return to undergraduate economic theory. Haven't you ever heard of the 'price inelasticity of demand?' If not, look it up.</p> <p>From Wikipedia: 'In simpler words, demand for a product can be said to be very inelastic if consumers will pay almost any price for the product, and very elastic if consumers will only pay a certain price, or a narrow range of prices, for the product. Inelastic demand means a producer can raise prices without much hurting demand for its product, and elastic demand means that consumers are sensitive to the price at which a product is sold and will not buy it if the price rises by what they consider too much.</p> <p>Drinking water is a good example of a good that has inelastic characteristics in that people will pay anything for it (high or low prices with relatively equivalent quantity demanded), so it is not elastic. On the other hand, demand for sugar is very elastic because as the price of sugar increases, there are many substitutions which consumers may switch to'¦ Demand for an antibiotic, for example, becomes highly inelastic when it alone can kill an infection resistant to all other antibiotics. Rather than die of an infection, patients will generally be willing to pay whatever is necessary to acquire enough of the antibiotic to kill the infection.'</p> <p>When people cannot pay the price for medical care, they go to the emergency room ' where treatment is mandated. The cost is enormous. People will rarely choose death as an option.</p> <p>Let's face it ' medical care, like policing, the military and public education ' is not subject to the normal supply-demand economic theories of free market capitalism. We need a public option ' for that very reason. Capitalism cannot fix it on its own. The insurance industry has had many years since the ill-fated HillaryCare program to fix the problem ' and they didn't. They had their chance.</p> <p>Funny thing ' I actually like the HSA/Higher Deductible strategy you employ in your company ' but that is not something that is available to most people. You have a good idea that is lost when you turn your personal prejudices loose on the rest of the country with your unfortunate Op-Ed in the WSJ.</p> <p>Your stores waste too much food anyway. Who buys all of that stuff? It's impossible ' most of it is destroyed and the cost is passed onto your customers. Talk about lack of a social conscience. Demand for your products is, unlike medical care, elastic ' I'll take my business elsewhere.</p>

A. Thompson says …

<p>Thanks for showing me the true face behind the warm, sustainable, fair-trade facade of Whole Foods.</p> <p>You are saving me the 30-minute journey to your store as I will never spend another dime there.</p> <p>My double-income-no-kids money will go to my local health-food store which I know is not run by a clueless, out-of-touch right-wing tool.</p>

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