Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

By JOHN MACKEY

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out
of other people’s money.”

  —Margaret Thatcher

 

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:

Chad Crowe

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• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all 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.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. 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. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America

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.

At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an “intrinsic right to health care”? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.

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. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society.

Mr. Mackey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc.

Read the Marin IJ article here.

By tradition, on the last day of the CPAC conference, attendees conduct a straw poll to indicate which Republican candidate they would support. Yesterday’s straw poll resulted in Ron Paul receiving 31%, the most votes. In second place was Mitt Romney who got 22%. More info can be found here.

More US companies refuse to hire smokers
Posted By VOA News On February 18, 2010 (9:58 am) In World News

The World Health Organizations says smoking is considered a high risk factor in six of the eight leading causes of death worldwide.  Medical experts have long preached about how smokers can quit. Now a growing number of employers in the United States are refusing to hire them.  Some smokers are wondering what kind of discrimination is next.

More and more Americans who smoke are beginning to feel unliked and unwanted.  Federal laws prevent them from smoking in public buildings. They are not allowed to smoke within a certain distance of those buildings.
Since the federal law was passed a decade ago, many state and local communities have followed suit.

Now a growing number of companies and hospitals will not hire smokers, or worse, will fire them if they are caught lighting up.

Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee is now giving check-ups to prospective employees.  A urine test that detects nicotine means no job is offered.

Nurse Kristi Edmondson thinks her smoking habit is nobody’s business but her own. “Memorial should not dictate to us what we do in our own time, off the time clock,” she stated.

The head of the hospital’s parent company, Memorial Health Care Systems, is James Hobson. He defends the decision. “It’s relevant to creating that healthy lifestyle,” he said. “And again it’s relevant to the entire community.”

A growing number of large American companies are finding that health care costs for smokers are higher than for non-smokers.

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that medical care and the loss of worker productivity averages about $3,000 annually for each smoker.

As a result, some companies now require smokers to pay a larger share of their health insurance than non-smokers.

While 29 of the 50 U.S. states have laws that protect the rights of smokers, 21 others do not.  Weyco an insurance benefits administrator in (the state of) Michigan, began imposing random smoking tests in 2005 on its own employees.

The President of the National Workrights Institute is Lewis Maltby. “Most people think they have a right to freedom of speech.  They don’t know that their freedom of speech disappears where their boss is concerned,” Maltby said.

The World Health Organization says at least five million tobacco users die every year from lung cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related causes. The WHO says if current trends continue, tobacco-related deaths will climb to at least eight million a year by 2030.

Read the Mercury News article here.

By Tim Omarzu
Marinscope Newspapers
Published: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 2:03 PM PST

Marin drivers may pay another $10 every time they register a vehicle, if a county agency goes for the extra fee and a majority of county voters approves it in November.

The Transportation Authority of Marin, or TAM, is considering seeking voters’ approval for a $10 vehicle license fee that would raise $2 million to $3 million annually.

“We’re considering putting it on the ballot. We haven’t decided for sure, yet,” said Diane Steinhauser, the executive director of TAM.

TAM has commissioned a $40,000 poll that’s under way now to see if Marin voters would back the fee, and the TAM board is expected to decide at its Feb. 25 meeting whether to put the measure on the November ballot.

The fee would require only a simple majority to pass — unlike many local taxes that require support from two-thirds of voters.

The millions raised by the $10-per-vehicle fee could be used for such things as funding school crossing guards and paying for senior citizens’ transport, Steinhauser said. The money would be spent on “green” projects that would encourage people to drive less, she said.

Public input would help decide exactly how the money would be spent, she said. “We have to go through a process to let everybody have some feedback.”

Once the purposes of the funding were spelled out, they would be included in the ballot language. And TAM would be audited regularly to ensure the money was being spent as intended, Steinhauser said.

The ballot language also would say how long the fee would stay in effect.

In order to get the fee on the November ballot, the TAM board has to do so by early August.

TAM is responsible for managing a variety of transportation projects and programs in Marin County, receiving federal, state, regional and local funds. TAM administers Measure A, the half-cent transportation sales tax in Marin County passed by voters in November 2004.

Read the CBS article here.

The New Fascists: Part 1 – A Political Primer
Posted By James Hudnall On February 11, 2010 (8:41 am) In History, Politics

“My dear brothers, never forget, when you hear the progress of enlightenment vaunted, that the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!”

Charles Baudelaire, Le Joueur généreux, February 7, 1864

Forget everything you think you know about politics. It is probably wrong.

There is no left or right. Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Conservative, Progressive, Democrat, Republican, those are all meaningless terms. They are used to confuse people so they miss the point. The most important point about politics there is. There are only two schools of political thought and they have predictable results. All the names and labels for them are just smoke and mirrors.

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Political ideology is designed by elites to trick the masses into doing what they want. Each side tells you something designed to get your emotions going so they can play you. They get you to agree to give them more power, money and control over your lives by telling you some kind of story.

We need to put that vicious cycle to an end. It’s time to understand what their real goals are. But to free your mind, you need to be educated first. Only by seeing the road ahead can you avoid tripping on stones or falling off cliffs.

There are only two real political choices to make. And it has nothing to do with parties. It has to do with core beliefs. You are for one side or another. These sides are diametrically opposed. The best way I can describe the two choices is, freedom or slavery. That is what it boils down to. And the slave in question is you.

Do you want to be a slave or a free person? It’s your choice.

I’m sure some of you reading this have your guard up now. So take a deep breath and walk with me for a second. I am going to open your eyes.

There are only two forms of government. Every kind of government is a branch or variation of one of the two forms. All the side issues, are just window dressing because the root form of government determines a lot of crucial matters that effect everything else.

The first form has many branches and is called many by names. It is common. It is the oldest form. It is, in fact, ancient. It has many names because so many of those names have fallen into disrepute. So they keep re-branding it and try to sell it in a different package. But no matter what name it takes, it still leads to the same end result.

The second form has very few branches and is rarer than any precious stone. It is something many people want but few have had. The believers in the first form are always trying to destroy this second form. They lie about it. Try to corrupt and subvert it. Because they know it will always be more popular with the people if they knew they had a choice. So the second form must always be defended from the predators from the first, because it is precious. I like to refer to each system as the minus and plus system. But we’ll call them BG or LG here. Big Government or Limited Government.

communism

Those who believe in BG go by many names, and many of these believers don’t even know that they’re supporting the same goals as people they think are bad. But they have been tricked into selling out their own freedoms to enrich someone elses. All BG systems lead to the same result. I classify this as a minus system because it’s negative. The end result of a BG system is bad for most involved.

The BG system is designed to feed all resources to a few at the top. All else are diminished in power and wealth. But the citizens are told that they must support the government and its rules in order to receive some kind of “benefits.” In order to get the treats the government doles out, you have to give up your freedoms and your property. It sells the idea of some glorious future that is never attained and only gets worse over time. But it always maintains that it will lead to some kind of paradise.

It never does. It usually leads to some kind of hell. But it always finds people to subscribe to its ideas who become fanatical in defense of it, no matter how much the system abuses them. And it deludes many others into wanting it because it preys on their human nature, the very thing that destroys it in the end.

HitlerAndStalin

The LG or Limited Government system is the best system for human freedom. As a result it has been very rare in human history. Where it has been allowed to flourish, human beings have flourished. But those who believe in BG are always trying to corrupt and destroy LG societies. This is because LG denies ultimate power to those who seek it. An LG system is more fair because you get what you put in. You have the ability to advance to any level as long as you don’t abuse the success that you have made or use it against others.

Before we explore how each system works, we need to understand the mindset of the people who believe in either system. I once did a cartoon illustrating the philosophies in the form of two Greek Philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. Each philosopher created the groundwork for understanding these schools of thought.

LG (Plus) believers are Aristotlian. They are like engineers. If something is proven to work, then they believe in it. They are not opposed to experimentation, but only if it involves proven principles. Ideas that are demonstrated to fail are rejected. They understand that human beings are flawed creatures. Humans are born hungry and spend their lives seeking to fulfill those hungers. In science terms, humans are driven by genetic hard wiring. It is part of their nature. In religious terms, humans are born with “original sin”. We can’t radically change who we are and remain human. We can only seek to improve ourselves through discipline, education, reason and morality.

LG believers understand that humans are often given to a lust for power because we all want some kind of control. LG societies are designed to limit governance so the state can never become tyrannical. It realizes that human nature is a constant so you have to develop a system that works within its framework, and keeps its basic problems in check. That way a politician’s greed is limited by what they are allowed to do by laws. The less interference a government has in human affairs, the more free the people are to progress on their own and flourish. LG believers are for individual rights. They believe a perfect society may not be possible, but it can be best achieved by respect for others rights and liberties. They believe in a social contract and the rule of law. They want people to be free in order to live their life without interference, as long as they respect other’s rights. The LG is there to enable the society to function and keep the peace, but it is no t there to dominate or dictate how one should live.

Churchill

BG (Minus) believers are Platonic. They posit that there’s an ideal form of society somewhere in the future, a utopia populated by an idealized form of humanity. This can only be achieved by forcing people to change through rules, laws and governance. It wraps itself in good intentions, but it ignores human nature, believing people can be changed by rules. Making the public follow orders will correct their bad behavior as the state sees it. It does not believe it can be tyrannical because BG systems are always sure they’re correct, not matter what happens. Dissenters are ridiculed or punished. No matter how many mistakes a BG society makes or disasters it causes, it does not admit its fault. BG believers preach dependence on the state. It denies individual empowerment or freedom and instead promotes group think. It pushes the group over the individual to keep people in check. It does not want leaders so much as followers. Its leaders are usually the hungriest for power that make their way to the top by gaming the system.

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BG societies are constantly creating diversions to keep the public focused on policies it wants to sell. So it often creates “crises” of some kind that the people are supposed to rally around. In order to get them to give up more freedom or personal wealth, it often uses scare tactics. Threats of invasion, threats of nature, etc. The elites in a BG system always live vastly better than those at the bottom, but it always promises some kind of “equality” that never exists in reality. And because the BG system is large and complex it relies on bureaucracies to manage them. But because bureaucracies are made of humans, human nature always corrupts these systems. A bureaucracy becomes inefficient and corrupt in direct proportion to its size. The larger, the less effective, the more corrupt.

BG systems usually lead to economic collapse and stagnation. Usually with dire consequences for millions of people. That is why citizens in BG societies often yearn to go to LG societies. Many of them risk their lives to escape from BG societies that hold them captive. Because in worst case scenarios, BG systems imprison their citizens. They are all, to some extent, anti-freedom. It’s a matter of degree.

In contemporary American terms, the common names for BG and LG is “progressive” or “conservative”. Those terms have been used misleadingly by the media and others, so I avoided them. In part two I will do side by side comparison of the two systems performed in history. And I will explain the title of this series.

Article taken from Big Journalism – http://bigjournalism.com
URL to article: http://bigjournalism.com/jhudnall/2010/02/11/the-new-fascists-part-1-a-political-primer/

Read the Daily Breeze article here.

Read the Mercury News article here.

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