Aug 13, 2009

Yet Another Reason Not To Shop At Whole Foods (As If We Needed One)

There are plenty of reasons not to shop at Whole Foods: the greenwashing, the ridiculously high prices, the holier-than-thou attitude, the low wages, the monopolization, the whole John-Mackey-pretending-to-be-someone-else-on-Yahoo thing. The history of being paternalistically anti-worker.

But now there's another reason not to shop there: Whole Foods CEO put out an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal criticizing Obama's health care reform.

Okay, being critical of health care reform is fine. We love some healthy debate. But it isn't fine to do it by being patently dishonest.

He begins his arguments by bemoaning the budget deficit. (I don't remember Mackey expressing this concern over tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans during wartime, but I just may have missed that). He forgets that the rise in health care costs due to the status-quo is a big reason why we have these budget deficits to begin with, and that without reform those will only continue to grow.

His solutions are a bunch of "the free market will take care of it" status-quo supporting ideas that will only continue to push more families into bankruptcy and make it easier for insurance companies to put profits before patients.

Like tort reform. Always a stand-by for blame by conservatives, who claim that the reason health care is so expensive is because of trial lawyers' lawsuits against doctors, forgetting that doctors and pharmaceutical companies do sometimes make mistakes, like, oh, Vioxx, and that civil suits are often the only way to hold medical providers accountable.

And this gem of a dumb idea: Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover.

I'm simply amazed at that one. Flabbergasted. Insurance companies are profit-driven, always looking to maximize healthy customers and cheap treatments and avoid paying for important measures when they become too expensive. This is how they make their money, by telling people what they can't have covered.

Remember in "Fight Club" when Ed Norton character is talking about the cost of doing an automobile recall in terms of an equation:

"Should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

Same principle at work. If you remove all government mandates from health insurance companies, they would drop all their liabilities or people with preexisting conditions. Had cancer? No coverage. Might get pregnant? Do dangerous work? Have some expensive prescriptions? No coverage for you!

Thanks for the bright ideas, John Mackey!

Finally, MacKey comes down to health care being an issue of personal responsibility.

Oh, you mean if I eat right (and I'm guessing that Mackey means organic food from Whole Foods) and work out I won't need to go to the doctor?

If only that was the case. Anyone with half a brain just plain knows that people get sick, no matter what.

Even Lance Armstrong, for crying out loud, and that guy works out!


libhom said...

Mackey is pond scum whose rightist rantings have put a bad taste in my mouth.

wheel1440 said...

I hear the statement of "individual responsibility" over and over again from rich industrialists in this debate, as if their comfortable position somehow qualifies them to lecture the poor on what it means to pinch pennies.

Humor aside, the problem with this statement is that it is disingenuous. Mackey has conveniently forgotten the social function health insurance was originally created to serve.

The whole idea of health insurance, much like the idea of a credit market or a diversified portfolio (two things I am sure Mackey understands as well) is that it collectivizes uncontrollable risk.

For example, back before there was insurance (and medical costs were lower in real terms), Americans often depended on family and friends for payments: If you have an unlucky month and break your leg (even though you were trying your best not to break any bones this year), your income may not be able to pay for the expenditures, but your family can cover you, because as a whole, the family's income exceeds their medical expenditures as a whole. The family as a whole can handle one bad roll of the dice.

It's the same concept with insurance (in the various forms it has taken in America): many many people pay into the pool (usually in a tiered manner based on how likely they would be to need insurance) and then that pool would be used on whoever was unlucky enough to need the coverage. The costs and protection are shared among many.

However, over the last several decades, the protection aspect has been robbed of us. Through a colluding medical industry, several large monopoly companies have redirected our contributions to their own interests. Essentially, health insurance no longer serves the social function it was intended to serve. It now is more or less another gatekeeper of the medical institution.

Mackey is playing dumb. No matter how much of a rugged, hardworking individualist one may be, one still risks injury beyond one's mean to pay. That is the reason insurance exists. Insurance is a good thing.

The problem is what we have right now isn't insurance. It's a price fixing scheme which begins in the medical industry goes through dozens of boardrooms and media outlets and ends up all the way here in DC.