Daily Archives: August 13, 2009

Sticking it to Wholefoods. Yay!

I don’t watch the news, I’ve said that before.

By choice, I deliberately take a back seat to everything that’s going on. Not out of indifference, but because what’s going on is so lunatic, so troublesome, so extreme, and so unrelated to my vision of: i) how a reasonable, decent, civilized society should be conducting itself; and ii) how a reasonable, decent, civilized media should be reporting on that society, that quite honestly I’d rather abstain altogether than waste a single ounce of vital energy trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s why God invented other people.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Yesterday, an outraged friend of mine sent me a link to the Daily Kos wholefoods logowebsite. They’re reporting that John Mackey, co-founder of Wholefoods – one of my favorite stores wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week opposing universal healthcare. Opposing it, though. I mean, my god!! What kind of narrow-minded, heartless beast can’t see the value in average Americans having access to doctors when they’re ill without bankrupting themselves? It’s nuts.

Well, the Daily Kos was even more outraged than my outraged friend, and that takes some doing: she’s pretty outraged, I have to say.

mackeyThe article went on to declare Mackey “anti progressive and frankly a threat to the health and wellbeing of millions who do not have health insurance and those who could barely afford it.”

There’s lots more, if you can bear it. Read the whole thing here.

Well, naturally, as a shopper, I was outraged too and leapt on the anti-Mackey bandwagon at once. My friend declared that she would never shop at Wholefoods again -selfish, money-grubbing, anti-human bastards that they are. No, from this point on, the store was businessa non grata, as far as she was concerned.

wholefoodsAnd I agree. Even though I buy my dried apricots  there, and their vegan samosas are to die for, our love affair is over. End of story.

Except that…

Well, it’s not end of story. Not really.

Because after reading the Daily Kos post, I decided to do something I never do. I followed up. I read the Wall Street Journal op-ed for myself.

And here’s where I always get into trouble. Here’s where all geminis get into trouble. Because the more I absorbed what Mackey was saying and thought about it, the more sense it made to me. I didn’t agree with some of his proposals. But he’s a businessman, of course, with an eye always on the bottom line, and I’m a rational, caring human being concerned for his fellow man, so I didn’t expect to. Still, some of his points seemed valid. 

Here’s a small excerpt.

“Even in countries like Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments.

Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are currently waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment, according to a report last month in Investor’s Business Daily. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million….

Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices…”

There’s plenty more.

But he’s right. I can see that. Right about obesity and people not taking care of their health. Right that nutrition and exercise are essential to our physical and emotional well-being, and that most Americans turn their back on that fact and prefer to eat processed crap instead. Crap that destroys their body from the inside out. Crap not sold by Wholefoods.

He’s also right about the waiting lists. I haven’t lived in the UK for over a decade, but I do remember certain things about the National Health Service, and that’s one of them. The “service” part, for instance, is really poor. The staff I encountered were underpaid, flustered, tired, and unfriendly. Trying to care, but having a hard time of it. The atmosphere in certain hospitals was more like that of a disinfected abattoir, with bodies being pushed through as fast as possible. And, worst of all, waiting lists for the privilege of being treated in such a roughshod way were exruciatingly long.

Some time ago, another friend of mine who lives in London badly needed a cataract operation, yet she had to wait two years for it. Private medical insurance would have made that happen within a couple of weeks.

On the plus side, the service is free to all.

If you’re in an accident, an ambulance will come get you, you’ll receive treatment and be put back on your feet, and you won’t be landed with a bill equivalent to the budget for NASA’s space program afterwards. That’s got to be a good thing.

On the whole, though, as I recall, the National Health Service was inefficient, poorly-funded, and sicker than its patients, always teetering on the brink of financial disaster. Great to have – check. A reassuring  back-up in case of emergencies – check. But otherwise not as good as it was cracked up to be.

Which is why, when I lived in Britain, like many other people I invested in private medical insurance, same way I do in the U.S. Private medicine had mopped up most of the good doctors. Why waste their time trying to earn a meager crust in the battleground of the public sector when they could amass a small fortune in the private sector?

Suddenly, you’re beginning to understand why I don’t involve myself in the news or politics, or decisions that require me to make an intelligent choice between two opposing viewpoints. I can’t do it. I’m a gemini. I see both sides. 

On the one hand, sure, my outraged friend is right. I absolutely support those who want to introduce affordable healthcare for the masses and I would fight to the bitter end to ensure that every man, woman, and child in this country receives the level of medical attention they need when they need it, at a price they can afford. That said, after reading Mackey’s op-ed, I quite honestly oppose healthcare 100% and will do everything in my power to make sure it never happens.  

Damn. This grown-up stuff is hard.

All the same, my boycott of Wholefoods still stands. At least until my supply of dried apricots runs out.  

Bloggers revolt.

Shoppers revolt.


P.S. After writing the above post, my outraged friend forwarded me an email from that lovely David Axelrod. Address: the White House. Here it is. Do with it what you will.

Dear Friend,This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we’ve just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President


8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage:

  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won’t be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

8 common myths about health insurance reform

  1. Reform will stop “rationing” – not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a “government takeover” of health care or lead to “rationing.” To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can’t afford reform: It’s the status quo we can’t afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage “euthanasia”: It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets’ health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans’ access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President’s budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will benefit small business – not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare “doughnut” hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts.  Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose.  Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job.  Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people – one in every three Americans under the age of 65 – were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance – projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf


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