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Whole Foods’ John Mackey: Health care reform was ‘rammed’ down our throats

John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, says the federal health care reform law was a “very radical change.”
Whole Foods Market

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the legality of the health care reform law, Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey once again is wading into the debate, saying the federal government should not be “meddling” in our health care decisions.

In an exclusive interview with Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto, Mackey said he thinks federal health care reform “was rammed down the throats of America.”

“It’s a huge change in America. It’s a very radical change,” Mackey said. “And it wasn’t done in any kind of popular fashion. I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s a good law.”

Mackey, co-CEO of Austin-based Whole Foods, made waves in August 2009 with a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that criticized President Obama’s health care reform proposal. Mackey wrote that health care reform should move “toward less government control and more individual empowerment.”

“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,” Mackey wrote.

Following publication of the op-ed, some customers vowed to boycott Whole Foods, the world’s largest the natural and organic foods grocer. Mackey made it clear in a subsequent post on a Whole Foods blog that he was expressing his own opinions in the newspaper and that “Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position” on health care reform.

A divided Congress passed Obama’s plan in March 2010; the most controversial part of the law is the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties. Some detractors now refer to the health care reform law as “ObamaCare.”

In the Fox Business interview, Mackey gave “major points” to the Supreme Court “for having the courage to tackle this issue now in an election year. I thought they would probably try to punt on it until after the election, so I think it’s noteworthy that they’re taking it on now.”

Mackey said he doesn’t think the United States is obligated to provide health care for everyone.

“I don’t feel like people have intrinsic rights to health care or to food or to shelter or a computer or automobiles or anything else. People are responsible for themselves,” Mackey told Cavuto.

“Now, we can agree to help each other, and I think Americans are very generous and we do look to help people. I just don’t think it’s the government’s job to provide for that. It’s not in the Declaration of Independence, it’s not in the Constitution. I don’t feel like that’s really the government’s responsibility.”

Mackey said that since passage of health care reform, the costs of providing health insurance for Whole Foods employees have risen. One provision of law that has led to higher costs, he said, is the requirement that most health insurance plans let parents keep adult children on their policies until age 26.

“There’s no free lunch. Somebody has to pay for that,” Mackey said.

He added: “Twenty-six years old is not really a child any longer. It’s an adult. They should be responsible for themselves.”

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