Whole Foods CEO John Mackey & Kathryn Slater Carter agree on Healthcare

Letter

Posted by on Thu, August 27, 2009

Wednesday night at the Midcoast Community Council meeting Kathryn Slater Carter quoted extensively from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s Wall Street Journal op-ed.

In a strong show of support for Mackey’s argument that American citizens do not have any intrinsic right to healthcare Slater Carter stated, "I’m buying all my groceries from Whole Foods now."

Thousands of Whole Foods customers have reacted to Mackey’s Wall Street Journal op-ed with a boycott effort, including an online petition with over 30,000 signatures. As part of the current damage control strategy, Whole Foods in-house public relations division has created a forum on its website for customers to discuss the healthcare issue.  There are over 19,000 healthcare posts, compared with 79 posts on the raw food forum.

Libba Letton, spokeswoman for Whole Foods recently said, "Certainly when our customers tell us they are unhappy to the extent that they are boycotting our stores, we are concerned.  We don’t want them to leave us."

During the Midcoast Community Council meeting Slater Carter made it clear that she agreed whole-heartedly with Mackey’s libertarian stance on healthcare reform. When I pointed out that universal healthcare is implemented in almost every industrialized country Slater Carter said, "All Americans have healthcare because they can go to an emergency room anytime."

It is my opinion that healthcare is not a commodity that only the rich deserve.


Comment 1
Fri, August 28, 2009 1:49pm
jlundell
All my comments

Providing primary health care through emergency rooms is an insanely expensive and inefficient policy. ERs are of no value for preventive or routine care.

To the extent that ERs are used by uninsured Americans for their primary care, the rest of us are paying for it (and paying for it exorbitantly) through our health insurance premiums.

In doing so, we also subsidize employers who don’t bother to provide health insurance to their employees. It’s easy to understand why such employers would prefer to have the rest of us continue footing the bill for their employees’ healthcare.

“...Providing primary health care through emergency rooms is an insanely expensive and inefficient policy…”

But so is providing cheap or free health care at local clinics via taxpayer-subsidized insurance or payments, which is likely part of the plan on the table in DC. We tried that sort of thing in here on the Coastside with well-known disasterous financial results.

Comment 3
Sat, August 29, 2009 6:22am
jlundell
All my comments

A likely part? I doubt it; the bills on the table appear to be focused almost entirely on health insurance, not health care delivery. I don’t think we’ll see any free clinics come out of them.

One could argue, of course, that our entirely health insurance system is insanely expensive and inefficient, compared to the rest of the world, and I wouldn’t disagree. But using ERs for primary care is expensive and inefficient even by those standards.

Comment 4
Sat, August 29, 2009 9:18pm
Dan Blick
All my comments

The best solution is the simplest: Make Medicare available to anyone who wants to buy into it.

Medicare doesn’t get between you & your doctor, like health insurance companies do.  It doesn’t ration health care like health insurance companies do.  It lets the doctor decide what you need, and then it just pays the bill.

And it does this at an overhead rate of 3.5%.  The health insurers’ overhead rate is 15-35%.

No pre-existing conditions, no getting dropped.

This would also be a boon to small businesses, especially ones who are struggling to afford health insurance for their employees.

While I don’t agree with him or some of his premises, I thought Mackey’s column was honest and rational.

It was a refreshing change of pace from the fear mongering we’re hearing from opponents of the public option or reform in general.

Or perhaps naive?

Whatever the merits of his pro-market version of health care reform even John Mackey should have realized that at this late stage in the debate his views, solicited by the strongly conservative Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page, would only serve as an attack on Obama and the health care reform bills opposed by Republicans.

Surely he should have realized that his column would provide a rational facade for the underlying political opposition to health care reform. Opponents to “ObamaCare” desperately need to dress themselves up as reasonable people with reasonable arguments against reforms (or better yet, *for* a different set of reasonable reforms).

Mackey was naive to let himself be used like this.

—Darin

Comment 7
Sun, August 30, 2009 10:12am
Barry Parr
All my comments

Mr. Mackey has a history of exercising poor judgement in public communications.

At least he used his real name this time!

—Darin

“...Make Medicare available to anyone who wants to buy into it…”

Medicare is a guaranteed fiscal disaster waiting to happen. Do we really want to expand a money-losing program and make things even worse? Medicare is currently looking at around a $35 trillion (yes trillion) present-value deficit over the next 75 years. That’s about 300 percent of GDP.

First rule of business: Don’t insult your customers.

When John Mackey argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that American citizens do not have any intrinsic right to health care he succeeded in violating that fundamental rule.

Second rule of business: Don’t talk smack about your competitors.

In 2007 Mackey was caught posting negative comments (trash talk) about a competitor on message boards in an effort to push down the stock price for at least seven years. Mackey posted to Yahoo Finance forums referring to himself in the third person and criticizing rival supermarket chain Wild Oats Market.
____________________________________________________________
Hello Kevin,

What’s your healthcare solution?

“...What’s your healthcare solution?...”

There is no “solution” if you mean some perfect outcome where all problems are solved including the extremely important problem of figuring out a way to pay for it all.

I’m really starting to think that the best outcome on the national health care front is for nothing to happen. At least that way, the politicians can’t make things any worse than they already are.

Comment 12
Sun, August 30, 2009 7:55pm
jlundell
All my comments

Whatever Medicare’s problems are, they’re less than private health insurance. Health care costs are going up faster that [whatever you care to name]. Medicare is more efficient that the US alternatives, but that’s not enough.

WRT Mackey’s rationality (that’s you, Barry #5), I grant that he’s not Palin. But which of his eight points makes any sense at all? Let’s consider #6. This is no doubt the kind of outside-the-box thinking that gets you a job as a CEO of a semi-major US corporation. “Enact Medicare reform.” Brilliant! Why didn’t we think of that before?

Tax deductibility for private insurance payments. Now that’s going to be a godsend for our local McDonald’s countermen. If only they could deduct the cost of their health insurance plans. Sheesh.

Malpractice reform. Less than 2% of health care costs. A red herring.

We’re in a sad state indeed, Kevin, if the best solution is to leave things as they are. Send them to the ER. Maybe we can let them eat cake while they wait.

“Medicare will be 300% of GDP”  ??? 

Healthcare will never be more than the GDP, because it is part of the GDP.  MRI machines, Drug production,  Hospital facilities, Testing equipment & supplies are all included in the GDP.  If we think billing costs, overhead, and the actual time with a
doctor is going to outpace the GDP by 300% then we’ve just
made the perfect case for health care reform.

Regarding our local clinic: “We tried that sort of thing in here on the Coastside with well-known disastrous financial results”  The disastrous results resulting from the clinic closure were human, not financial. 
We supplied good affordable (sometimes free) healthcare to our community for 20 years.  In the end the funding ran dry, and it wouldn’t really have taken very much to keep it going.  There was no disastrous $18 million deficit associated with the Clinic, I think you are thinking of something else.

When we throw out catastrophic cost projections, we are missing an important point.  What is the cost associated with inadequate preventative care.  What are the costs associated with waiting for a simple health problem to become an emergency.  What are the costs of an illness that has progressed beyond the point that is easily fixed?

Neil Merrilees

Neil, current GDP is ~$14T. So it’s actually closer to 250%, and not 300% of GDP. I noticed Kevin is referring to the present value of that figure, so it’s the future cost (discounted to reflect the time value of money… so maybe closer to 300% come to think of it). He was correct, and using to make a current value relative to a future time.


Ah, the seminal “industrialized countries” do it better rhetoric. Yeah, none of “those industrialized countries” have populuations in the neighborhood of 300+million people. Holding countries like Sweden up (and that is one of the BIGGER countries that ‘they do it better’ pundits love to hold up) as an example is folly, as the even the city of Los Angeles is bigger than Sweden. Their system benefits additionally, as many of those countries (like Sweden/Norway/Luxembourg/et al) hold nationalist discrimination policies (i.e. immigration policies), ...much less exorbitant tax rates.

Mr Boville, please don’t use the “battle-cry” with regard to opponents making an “attack on Obama” and “right-wing” and “Republican”... so far, many of us are seeing this is a bad proposal set forward. Moreover, whether you are for or against nationalized healthcare, you MUST BE CONCERNED that they are trying to cram this down our throats so quickly. Remember the disaster that was the “shovel-ready” (is the sarcasm coming through) Economic Stimulus Recovery? What is being proposed could be a penultimate American program, and needs to be vetted and thought through carefully. Maybe Mrs Spier finally read the proposal(s), but too many of her colleagues are voting yes, without even reading it, for political favors down the line. This is happening on both sides of the aisle.

And a Sarah Palin mention on this thread. Huh? Says more about you bringing her up, than it does her. Think about that.

And Sabrina, although you are my 2nd favorite MCCer, calling out a colleague on this website for a non-MCC/coastal item… bush league. Keep it in the meetings, not sure what KSC’s opinion on nationalized healthcare has to do with raising “MCC awareness”. Back to trails and water rights, please. Frankly, I’ll go to Whole Foods whenever/wherever. The CEO’s opinion on a very-split national debate should have no bearing on the quality of goods/service. Boycotts in this matter are naive, if… IF they have any impact, and WFMI’s stock goes to $10, Mackey will at least survive on the $1.3M in options he exercised this month alone, while the min. wage bagger gets laid off.  I don’t care for some of what Neil Young says politically, but I love his music and still buy his albums.

But back to the OP, as I’m curious what you are upset with? That KSC brought up a non-local issue in a meeting? That some random Austinite CEO objects to playing God from Washington DC? Was this the perfect opportunity to go toe-to-toe with her? Or the final straw??? I’m not a KSC fan… but I’m still missing the point of this editorial… you are going after 3 subjects here…pick one. Save the histrionics for the 8th grade class council.

BTW, fix social security first, then I might trust the gov’t with a nationalized healthcare program for all. Last I checked, my IRA (despite the “collapse of the capitalist model” that occurred this past year) has CONTINUALLY outperformed social security…. and that includes a number of months in all-cash.

Comment 16
Mon, August 31, 2009 3:26pm
jlundell
All my comments

Hey, Kevins: so, what’s the present value of the next 75 years of GDP? And why would I compare the 75-year-NPV of anything to one year’s flow of anything else?

Comment 17
Mon, August 31, 2009 3:29pm
jlundell
All my comments

The US can’t have decent health care because it’s too big? That sounds like a total non sequitur.

Comment 18
Mon, August 31, 2009 3:51pm
jlundell
All my comments

Comments R Us….

While we’re on the subject of GDP, this from Krugman:

That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

While Medicare does a poor job of cost containment, it does better than the US health insurance industry.

A relevant metric for Medicare’s financial distress is the present value of the program’s future negative cash flows (Medicare present-value deficit = $35 trillion) in comparison to how much income is available today (GDP).

It’s basically a debt-to-income ratio which is a standard way of measuring the burden of debt. In this case the burden is huge. Basically the U.S. would need to find $35 trillion in cash today to put into a Medicare bank account in order to meet the promised future obligations of Medicare.

Jonathan, it wasn’t my economic take, unless you meant the other Kevin. I’d never off pulled that out. Nationalized is too easy to shoot holes through. Besides A $239B price tag is nothing in this current administration. Speaking of… Krugman is the Fox Financial Channel of the left… nice quote.

[never post through a Crackberry]

Jonathan, it wasn’t my economic take, unless you meant the other Kevin. I’d never of pulled that out. Nationalized healthcare is far too easy to shoot holes through as it is. Besides a $239B price tag is nothing in this current administration. Speaking of… Krugman is the Fox Financial Channel of the left… nice quote.

>Krugman is the Fox Financial Channel of the left<<

Except that he is highly trained, usually right, and won the Noble Prize.

Fox has who?

—Darin

Darin… the Obama colored lenses still shine bright. Al Gore the fraud, and Yassar Arafat the terrorist both have Nobel Prizes. The Cunha Lit Club Creative Writer Prize carries more credibility than what has become of the Nobel. Alfred rolls in his grave yearly. Darin… Yassar Arafat… you’re going to defend that? Nobels mean as much as Grammies these days.

Back to Sabrina’s tirade… and your rhetoric on Montara Fog…where you mention

“Sabrina calmly” (brought up an issue that has ZERO to do with MCC).

“Kathryn than monopolized the discussion”. But, I have to profess, she did it “calmly” as well… no mention of that.

Sabrina had little business bringing that up, and I understand you disagree with KSC on the issue, but ... your MFog.com commentary was parallel to a political issue outside of the MCC’s focus (or so I thought).

Your biasm is shining brightly.. if you were providing decent coverage you would of also mentioned Sabrina’s EMBARASSSSSING “school girl” like tirade, walking out. Instead.. you joined arms about some national “firestorm” on the healthcare issue and ‘clear frustration’. It was un-becoming of a local representative. I don’t think KSC should of brought it up, but it was a rhetorical limbo-bar that both kept going lower on. The Montara Fog comments, slid right under along, but with Sabrina. I thought it was an MCC meeting?! Not the summit of the G-7/8/9/47.

As mentioned, I’m not a KSC fan… I just want honest coverage here on the coast.

Still love ya Darin.

Kevin,

Hey there. You are not reading what I wrote very carefully. You say

>>>“Kathryn than monopolized the discussion”. But, I have to profess, >>>she did it “calmly” as well… no mention of that.

But if you look again at my very short text I say:

>>>>Carter then continued calmly quoting from the Mackey paper.

As for Krugman, he won the Economics Prize, not the Peace Prize. A very different thing. Gore won the Peace Prize and Arafat, you failed to mention, shared his prize with Perez and Rabin.

It looks like you biasm is so bright we should wear sunglasses… :)

—Darin

Hi all,

I would like to point out the difference between a ‘right’ and ‘good social policy’.

A right is something cast in stone, like our Bill of Rights. Good social policy is a program that is in place because it makes sense and is preferred over other means toward desired ends. Most folks look at rights very differently from social policy. In that sense I agree that health care should not a right.

But affordable health care sure makes good sense when considering how best to assure that our fellow residents stay healthy and thus don’t infect us with all the world’s various diseases.

I suggest that you all consider the Single Payer Health Insurance bill in the current CA legislature, SB 810. A very similar bill passed the Legislature in ‘06 and ‘08. In both years, it was vetoed by the Governator.

This bill proposes a private health care system much like that proposed in the Federal legislation, except that the health insurance is provided by a state agency.

While it covers all residents, it is paid for through payroll taxes and taxes on unearned income. Its major feature is making insurance independent of employment, unlike the federal bills. And yes, it removes the profit motive from the insurance business. Health providers would still be private businesses as they have been for a long time. The taxes would be in lieu of insurance premiums, co-pays and deductables. For most folks, the costs would be less than current costs and would allow full choice of providers.

Think about what the private health insurance companies bring to the table. They:
1. pay health care bills.
2. adevertise their services.
3. qualify potential customers.
4. make sure that providers don’t overspend.
5. disqualify customers who get sick.
6. pay large executive salaries.
7. pay a return to their shareholders.

Only item 1 is a benefit to health care. All the rest are unnecessary (and very expensive) costs. By eliminating these wasteful expenses, all the currently uninsured can be covered.

Since every other industrial country has some form of universal health care, and since our companies need to compete with these in the global market, there is no reason (beyond greed) that we can not do the same.

BTW, SB 810 is self funded. Once initially funded, the system does not take any more money out of the General Fund than is currently the case.

Almost everyone agrees that the current way of funding emergency rooms used in lieu of primary care is a very wasteful system. It came about because of the thinking that it makes sense to care for all residents. But whoever came up with this solution to this noble view made a huge economic mistake in how to accomplish their goal. That mistake has poisoned our discussion of health care reform ever since.

On New Majority Michael Pollan writes: http://www.newmajority.com/a-reply-from-michael-pollan

“The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.”

5 Myths About Health Care Around the World:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101778_3.html?sub=AR

The Health Insurers Have Already Won
How UnitedHealth and rival carriers, maneuvering behind the scenes in Washington, shaped health-care reform for their own benefit:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_33/b4143034820260.htm

Comment 29
Thu, September 3, 2009 10:56am
Don Baldwin
All my comments

In a strong show of support for Mackey’s argument that American citizens do not have any intrinsic right to healthcare Slater Carter stated, “I’m buying all my groceries from Whole Foods now.” ————

Coastside life is so much better since New Leaf came to town.  The great Farmers’ Markets at HMB and Pacifica, along with New Leaf enable me to get all my food and grocery needs right here on the Coast.

It would be nice to know that all of our local officials supported our local businesses and helped keep our local food suppliers financially secure.

Comment 30
Thu, September 3, 2009 12:27pm
Dan Blick
All my comments

On the credibility of Paul Krugman vs. Fox News:

Maybe you can tell us which “special interest” you think Paul Krugman might be working for?

On the other hand (and no, I’m not an economist), Fox News, in an appeal of their losing case against two whistle-blowing reporters, asserted that they have the Right to Lie in their “news” broadcasts!  And they won!!  No, I’m not kidding.

http://www.foxbghsuit.com/

The judge reversed the jury’s decision because there’s no written law, rule, or regulation that prohibits lying on the news—so the whistleblower statute didn’t apply!

http://www.2dca.org/opinion/February 14, 2003/2D01-529.pdf

Why anyone would think that anything on Fox News is credible is way beyond me.

How does this apply to Health Care Reform?  Because Fox News, the GOP/RNC, and the health insurance industry and their paid sycophants are LYING about what’s in the existing bills.  And they’re playing on people’s fears—just like they did with the Iraq War in 2003, and their lies about WMDs.

See a pattern?

If a Public Option passes, the health insurers’ Gravy Train is over, and they wouldn’t be nearly as profitable.  It’s about the money.  Then they couldn’t afford the $1.4M PER DAY that they’re spending now to fight a Public Option.

Medicare is in a hole because Bush & the GOP passed legislation that prohibited Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies.  We have to pay them what they’re asking.

That’s crazy.

I’ll still take Medicare over my current insurance any day.  Plus, if younger & presumably healthier people are buying in, the burn rate should drop by quite a bit.

The Right, in this case, Isn’t.

—Dan

“About 80 percent of the calls handled by Engine Company 10 are medical emergencies because the firehouse serves one of the city’s poorest areas, where few residents have health insurance, doctors’ checkups are rare, and medical problems are left to fester until someone dials 911.”

Firefighters Become Medics to the Poor
By IAN URBINA
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/04/us/04firehouse.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Nobody is arguing that the U.S. healthcare system is without problems.  But “fixing” these problems for example by expanding Medicare (or something similar) is going to create a whole new set of even bigger problems, mostly financial in nature.

I don’t think most people understand how completely screwed-up Medicare is from long-term budget perspective.