Mackey’s should be fired

Just posted this is a comment on Spike’s piece at the Austinist on Whole Foods CEO Mackey and his stupid ideas to “fix” healthcare.

Mackey sounds like he’s got all sorts of great ideas and is the savior of private health-care. The problem is that his solutions don’t work. My company recently moved to an HSA (which he advocates). It’s only 20% less than our previous health plan, and yet it provides almost no benefits. The only benefit is for me. Since I and my family are healthier than average we can afford to bet (and make no mistake, HSAs are gambling) on the fact that we won’t be too unhealthy in a year to make it cost too much. And since our household makes more money than 80% of households in the U.S. we can afford the high deductible by putting away over $5000 a year as a hedge against getting sick. That $5000 is to cover our full deductible on top of the over $300 per month I pay. But how exactly does a Whole Foods “team member” afford that plan?

I wholeheartedly endorse these “healthy” plans as a benefit for workers. In much the same way that other employee assistance programs (gym memberships, flex time, etc.) are good. It’s great to encourage your employees to be healthy. But being healthy doesn’t prevent accidents, or genetic diseases, or disease caused by external factors like pollution.

It does not solve the problem of how a minimum wage worker without $2000 hanging around in the bank (because what percentage of workers in that bracket can afford to sock away over 12% of their income for health care? and then they’re supposed to save 12% for retirement too?) can afford care with an HSA. Maybe because I’ve had minimum wage jobs I realize how ridiculous that idea is.

HSAs exist. The market, that great god at whose altar Mackey worships, has wholeheartedly rejected them. Why? Because they cost too much and do too little. They’re health care for rich people. If you’re having trouble deciding where to invest your money an HSA might be for you. If you’re wondering how you’ll pay your rent this month, it’s probably not.

Until we expand the insurance base to include all healthy and unhealthy citizens it will become increasingly unaffordable. And conservatives have presented no ways to fix that. Democrats have presented three – socialized medicine, a public option, and requiring the purchase of health insurance. HSAs don’t fix this problem. They just temporarily make health care cheaper for employers. CEOs who think this is a solution rather than a stop-gap should be fired for being ridiculously short-sighted.