Mr. Bill George Presents

Whole Foods And Healthcare

In Business on August 26, 2009 at 2:44 AM

This is slightly old news at the moment but the C.E.O of Whole Foods, John Mackey, posted an article that caused some controversy. “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare” was shown on the Wall Street Journal’s website and caused a great deal of disturbance among more liberal Americans, who in most cases are the ones that go to Whole Foods. The entire thing was a P.R. Nightmare. People are boycotting the natural foods markets all over the country to show their opposition to Mackey’s opinions.

I think, after reading the article, that Mackey really doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, which is unfortunate given that he is the C.E.O. of a major corporation (though given how major corporations have been faring lately, it’s hardly atypical). And while I disagree with his overall message, he does make some interesting points, and provides what in my mind appears to be the conservative ideal for privatized health care. He does a very good job of playing a responsible and caring C.E.O. while ultimately not doing much for health care or his company.

What follows are his list of suggestions with commentary/rebuttal where appropriate:

Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs).

Mackey goes on to suggest that this would solve a lot of problems with our health care system and provide an example for how his company utilizes high-deductible plans. What he doesn’t bother to explain is what high-deductible means. It means that you’ve got to pay out quite a bit of money before you start getting fully insured. Would this ease some of the financial burdens on people on a paycheck to paycheck basis? Absolutely. Would it allow insurance companies to spend a lot less? Sure it would, but as soon as someone has a health problem they’d better have $2,500 in the bank. Which doesn’t sound like much to your average middle class American, but your average middle class American also isn’t bagging groceries at Whole Foods. Mackey also suggests that this creates an incentive to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. No it doesn’t, it creates an incentive to avoid spending that $2,500 at all. I’ve had a toothache for the past few months but have I gone to the dentist? Nope! Thanks high deductible insurance plan! Realistically speaking this only really helps solve health care problems for people that can afford to have some health care problems to begin with. It’s a great way of working within the system we have, but nothing near what a proper universal heath care system could offer.

Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits.

While I would argue that most Americans that have individually owned heath-care can afford to pay a bit more in taxes, I can agree with this. There is no reason that all heath-care shouldn’t be treated equally.

Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines

Another one that I agree with. Not much to say here. Competition is good. Of course if health-insurance companies were really competing to cover all of us then would we really have so many uninsured Americans?

Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover.

This one is even more stupid than it sounds. Apparently Mackey thinks we all should be psychic and be able to predict the health problems that we are going to have in the future. He suggests that individual customer preferences should dictate what is covered and what isn’t. Most individual customers for health insurance aren’t medical doctors. So they (and I include myself in this ‘they’) have no idea what they’re talking about. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t put it past the insurance companies, who have already done a great job of proving they aren’t exactly moral institutions (how could they be), to try and convince people that they don’t need to spend money on X or Y precisely for the reasons that any caring person would encourage them to do the opposite.

Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Ok, this one I’m a little on the fence about. I don’t think that Doctors should be sued nearly as often as they are. People make mistakes, even people that went to medical school. I do, however, think that when a mistake gets in the way of someone living their life to the level that they should have, or even living their life at all, that they or their families should have some sort of compensation. Perhaps if the health insurance that we are paying for already covered medical negligence as well as the cost of procedures? I really don’t know. I think we should make the medical field a far more attractive field than it is right now. Maybe then we will get some people into it that care more about their patients than their paycheck.

Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost.

Another one that I agree with. Though I think it’s much easier to make a 0 transparent.

Enact Medicare reform.

Ok, Medicare certainly needs some work too. Of course providing Universal Health-Care would fix all those problems as well. But thanks for making some productive suggestions in your post about fixing Medicare, Mackey (note: he has none, he just says it’s heading toward bankruptcy).

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.

Hahahahaha. Ok, you really think that people that aren’t in favor of a Universal Healthcare system, the same people that typically argue that they shouldn’t have to pay for other people making poor choices and getting sick, are going to pay money so they can help other people who by their logic “made poor choices, and got sick?” This is even more idealist then the people that assume that Universal health care would work. Which, coincidentally, is just the right level of idealism, because it does work. The only people who say otherwise are the greedy, the misinformed, and the terrified, and those aren’t the type of people that should be making decisions for our country.


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