Today I received an invitation to join the Facebook Group “Support Whole Foods and John Mackey.” I knew, peripherally, that Mackey had written an op-ed that had drawn the ire of the supporters of government health care advocates, but I hadn’t ready his op-ed. My interest was piqued.
There’s much more to Mackey’s article than simply a repudiation of the plans floating about Capitol Hill. Far from standing in the way of progress, Mackey actually makes the case for a different type of reform, outlining eight specific policy reforms. Each would move health care decisions into patients’ hands – from breaking down interstate barriers on insurance sales to making it easier for employers to set up Health Savings Accounts for their employees.
Mackey is a good voice for this type of reform. I would wager that most of his employees are not expecting to be life-long Whole Foods workers. Like many Americans, they will change jobs and companies – and so for health care to be tied to their employment is as inconvenient as it is anachronistic. Companies used to offer pensions, too; now they make contributions to 401(k) and IRA accounts – recognizing that they can, as part of a benefits package, offer an employment benefit that lasts beyond the term of employment.
Mackey has posed a new idea in the scope of the current debate – that individuals will need to take personal responsibility for their health care. This is certainly a new way of looking at health care, and exactly the type of open and honest debate that we all should would welcome, right? Well, not quite. The other side is calling on shoppers to boycott Whole Foods.
This response is telling. Mackey is being demonized as an opponent of reform – a position they probably got from this line from his piece:
“Health-care reform is very important.”
Or possibly this one:
“[W]e clearly need health-care reform.”
You can see how that can be misconstrued.
The boycotters either don’t understand or don’t want to understand that Mackey’s individual health care concerns aren’t an issue – with a CEO’s salary, they are probably well-taken care of, with or without company-sponsored insurance. He’s talking about how to build insurance that will help his employees – the same employees who are much more likely than Mackey to be hurt (through layoffs or schedule cutbacks) by a decline in company revenue brought on by, say, a boycott.
A blogger at OpenLeft doesn’t seem to mind:
I think [the boycott] is a great idea. A stupendous idea…. There are downsides. For example, the people who work at Whole Foods could be negatively affected.
Never let the “little people” get in the way of a big idea, right?