Monday, August 24, 2009

Enlightened, affordable healthcare, that works

Whole Foods-Style Health Care
[...] Whole Foods has always had a philosophy of treating its employees as intelligent human beings, empowering them to made decisions not normally delegated to people who might otherwise be seen as unskilled labor, and giving them significant incentives to improve their performance and productivity. Part of his formula for treating employees well has been the company's approach to health-care benefits.

He talked about it in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal last week. Here's the essence of it:
Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our 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.

And then later on:
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.

Do you see the essence of what he has done? First, by offering high-deductible insurance, he has returned the whole concept of health insurance back to what it should have been all along -- a safety net against the really bad health catastrophes. Second, by giving employees the funding to pay for their own care when they just get the sniffles, he returns health care to the discipline that all other markets for any other kind of service have to face -- consumers making careful decisions about how to spend their own money. [...]

The article goes on to explain how the Obamacare approach is the exact opposite of what whole foods has done, and what it will mean in practical terms if it's forced on us:
[...] If Whole Foods had to switch over to an Obamacare-style approach, its costs of doing business would rise. And his employees would not be pleased, either, because under his enlightened approach to management he's already crafted his company's health benefits to reflect his employees' stated wishes. As he puts it, "Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction."

Labor is the largest cost for most companies. Benefits are the fastest-growing component of labor costs. And health-care insurance is the fastest-growing component of benefits. If Obamacare is enacted, labor costs are only going to go higher -- which means that corporate profits will have to go lower, unless companies pass the costs on to consumers.

Any company CEO -- and all the more so, people who run small businesses where labor costs are high and profit margins are already slim -- needs to be concerned about this. But Mackey is coming from another place, as well.

He's pointing out the very good news that corporate profits and providing generous health benefits don't need to be at odds. He's already found the way -- he just needs to keep government from messing it up for him and his workers.

And yet Mackey has been demonized for expressing these views in print. Left-leaning bloggers have tried to organize a boycott of Whole Foods to punish Mackey. [...]

It's scary how they are gong after Mackey to silence him. The article goes on to say how the people who think health care is a right, seem to think that free speech isn't. It also says we have a chance for REAL healthcare reforms that WORK, if people like John Mackey persist in speaking out, and don't cave in to the pressure of threats to silence them.

Be sure to read Mackey's brilliant piece in the WSJ:

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare
Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

Yes, eight things that will work, without raising the deficit, that the Obama Administration doesn't want you to hear about.

Also see:
Healthcare debate: "Bring your ideas to the table?" or “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”

UPDATE: The union fatcats behind the Whole Foods boycott

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