August 15, 2009

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

By JOHN MACKEY (Wall Street Journal)

"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. 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 move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:
• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees' Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.
• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

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

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

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

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor's visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?
Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America

Even in countries like Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments.

Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are currently waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment, according to a report last month in Investor's Business Daily. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million.

At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.

Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

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

Mr. Mackey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc.

Hat tip to Left Coast Rebel


fotini said...

have a real nice day!!!

Opus #6 said...

And they say conservatives are against health care reform. No. We are simply against the destruction of the American way of life. The health care system needs reform. You listed a number of reasonable reforms, that don't include throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Starsplash said...

Very well said. There are for sure some good ideas here.

blackandgoldfan said...

There's too much common sense in these suggestions for the current administration and Congress. If they even THOUGHT about implementing even one of these, they'd have their moonbat cards taken away, and they'd be forced to spend the night with Nancy Pelosi as punishment.

Anonymous said...

I saw that column and a related news story yesterday and thought it was outstanding. What struck me was: 1) how his own company has gone above and beyond to provide great options (including a lot of what he proposes here); and 2) he hits on one of my big ones ... Medicare Reform.

We don't need another public option (we already have them). We need a private option to compete with the public, not the other way around.

Also, a lot of his lefty customers are threatening a boycott of Whole Foods to protest Mackey's sensibility here. It figures these freedom proponents would behave this way.

Me? I am heading over to see if they have any organic Crunch and Munch.

Paladin said...

Hey, wait a minute.... I thought that anyone opposed to Obamacare simply wants to "do nothing" and maintain the "status quo". :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fotini!!

Anonymous said...

Ope, it sure is refreshing to read that someone else sees a more intelligent direction in which to move.

Anonymous said...


Let's hope it's not too late for new ideas. But, I have no doubt that the Democrats will NEVER even consider tort reform. It's their bread & butter.

Anonymous said...


I may actually start doing some shopping at Whole Earth. It may not be just a glorified Co-op after all.

Anonymous said...

DC, I'm with you. Wouldn't it be great if this is the thin end of the wedge that finally pries open the Lefties' problem-solving parameters?

Anonymous said...

Paladin, I'm thinking that the truth may be beginning to seep in. And, like vampires, the Left will fight like hell not to have to look at the crucifix of logic and reality.

Rhod said...

Man, that's a bucket of good ideas.

Americans might still be susceptible to good ideas, but they have to hear them without the hissing of lib vipers drowing everything out.

Health care and the other nanny-state crapola sloshing around originates in the left's "Positive Rights" fetish. Govt making life better for everyone.

Almost no one with a functioning brain can believe it. Govt expands in proportion to its mistakes, not its successes.

Anonymous said...

"Govt expands in proportion to its mistakes, not its successes"

I'm off to get this tattooed on my forearm.

The_Kid said...

All excellent points Nickie. I remember at one of our last health care signup Q&A meetings, the presenter pointed out that if you go to your heart specialist to get your blood pressure checked it was a $300 bill versus going to your family physician at around $50. Lot of that going on too.

But the tort reform will have tremendous positive effect.

Compare the loss of a family member in an airliner crash and you get what 150k ? versus a family member on an anti-depressant drug that commits suicide (while millions of other people benefit from the drug) and the Drug company gets hit with a multi-billion judgement. For One person. And the drug has to come off the market.

That's insanity. That can't continue. And add to that, all drug companies had to start socking money away in a defense fund just in case it happens to them. The whole system gets knocked upside the head with a 2X4 and we all pay the bill.

Gee, I wonder why Obama's health care bill has Tort Reform as one of its main items.

The_Kid said...

"Govt expands in proportion to its mistakes, not its successes."

That IS beautiful. And entirely accurate.

How about the 'war on drugs', and any 13 year old kid can still get a bag of weed 8 days a week.

Or the war on poverty.

Or the elimination of Middle East oil by shutting down our own drilling fields. ! Hhahahahahaaaaa hahaa

Every president since Jimmy Carter campaigned on reducing middle east oil....

Anonymous said...

Kid, you're hitting on all cylinders today.

The Trial Lawyers have got Obama in the hankie pockets of their pin-striped suits. Tort reform is DOA.

What was is that Willy Shakespeare wrote about lawyers?

Rhod said...

The opponents of tort reform dishonestly claim that malpractice costs (insurance costs, payouts, etc) add up to less than one half of 1% of health-care spending annually.


What they intentionally evade is the cost of CYA diagnostic testing done by doctors as case materials in the event of a suit.

Opus #6 said...

I went to that new article you put up. Here is a sample of comments by Fox News readers. Some are against the Whole Foods CEO, but many are FOR him:

Wow, a CEO with stones. I've never shopped at Whole Foods before, but now I will go out of my way to find one and patronize that store...

I applaud Whole Foods CEO for his opinion. His recommendations should be enacted by the Obama people and we would all be on his bandwaggon.

Mr. Mackey is a CEO who not only has a plan, but it is successful. He is to be applauded! To bad we end up with politicians that have never had the same experience. Too bad we have lawyers running our lives and our country. I will be joining the happy shoppers at Whole Foods.

I am gonna find out where this store is and organize as many busloads of people as I can find so we can buy all the food stuffs we need for the next 3 years or until this bozo gets booted out of office. This time the protestors from the left won't have an impact, as if they ever do. The left wing and the community organizers sure don't like it when they are up against it. This is what happens when you try to ram this stuff down our throats like this bozo is attempting to do. These are some of the worst people ever, i.e. Pelosi, Boxer, Waxman, Franken, Durbin, etc. What a motley bunch!

Anonymous said...

I may head over there myself for my weekly cheese ration.

chupacabra said...

"A commenter identified as Guns & Liberty wrote that he will start shopping there to "support this man who understands the real needs of this country and it isn't paying for doctors for a bunch of lazy smelly hippies who need a bath."


chupacabra said...

PS my awesome family doc. SEVERAL years ago paid 50,000 dollars a year liability insurance for his practice. His specialty was surgery. After the extra years in medical school he went GP/family practice due to ridiculous insurance costs and hasn't done a surgery since residency.

Another physician I work with who is probably one of the most decent, smartest and most well qualified physicians I've ever known has been sued six times in his 23 years of practice. The real kicker? NONE have been successful but, how many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars have been wasted on legal fees and insurance costs?

The_Kid said...

Thank you Mr Goomba. And yes, they're not interested in making any economically positive changes until after they take it over.

RHOD ! Lying is not a strong enough word...

Anonymous said...

Lawyers ruined our society.

Anonymous said...

Opie, the heads are exploding on the Left. What's next? Bob Dylan registers Republican?

Anonymous said...

Chup, it's good to be reminded by your absoultely perfect examples.

Thank you.

Ron Russell said...

We all need to give good liberals a pat on the back for having such great concern for the food we eat, the life we lead, and all the wonderful things in life they want to help us with so we can live longer and enjoy the life they have planned for us. Keep it up guys!!!

Anonymous said...

Nick, I beat you to it ... I tattooed that on the back of my legs (thus it didn't show on the shin photo you put up awhilst back ... in 2000 when Rhod and I were smashing bottles over our heads on election night.

Rhod said...

...until you found that full mason jar in your trunk, DC. Three operations later I still couldn't see to sign my name. They said you fermented the stuff with a dead armadillo.

All I remember is that you were singing about dirty dances with wolves, or something...

It's all very painful to think about.

Anonymous said...

Ron, Libs make excellent babysitters.

Anonymous said...

DC, I don't wanna be the one to break the news, but Rudy at Downtown Tattoos lied to you about the meaning of those Japanese symbols.

Anonymous said...

Rhod, if you don't relish the 'dillo, avoid BBQs at DC's place.

Also, beg off the "marinated" tapioca.

Anonymous said...

Goodness ... what a crowd. Rhod, I had completely forgotten about the pickled dillos. Them are good eatin', for sure.

Nick, I was wondering about that. Given that I have to get in deep snap position in front of a mirror to read them, I have been reading those tats backwards all these years. I need to get a lawsuit filed. I will be back after a while ...

lovelyprism said...

Nickie, go to Whole Foods! It's a fabulous place! I would shop there exclusively but the closest one to me is about an hour and a half drive :(
I had no idea their CEO was running the company and its health care this way. Now I wish I could work there as well as shop there.

Anonymous said...

Prism, I quite like the store. It has the most wonderful customer service!

But, it ain't cheap, as you know.