Whole Foods Puts Its Mouth Where the Money Is

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who recently published a controversial op-ed on health care, announced that the company will soon offer higher store discounts for healthier employees. The company will consider blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status, and body mass index (BMI) in determining the discount level. “Our intention for all of these lifestyle programs is that they are empowering and fun for Team Members who enjoy a challenge,” Mackey wrote in a letter to employees. “In offering the higher discounts to Team Members who choose to participate, we take nothing away from Team Members who choose not to do so…”[%comments]

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  1. Gary says:

    I like the intentions, but BMI is a pretty poor way of telling health. Someone with a larger amount of muscle or is taller will be considered overweight much more easily. (Shaq is considered obese!)

    And unfortunately, cholesterol and blood pressure are influenced by genetics. I think that is more acceptable though, since if you were dealt a worse hand genetically, you really will have to work harder to stay healthy, and this gives you more incentive to do that.

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  2. Terry says:

    Cue the lawyers!

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  3. Elana H. says:

    I think the idea is great, but the execution is lacking. As Gary stated, BMI is a poor way of measuring overall weight and health. It was created by a mathematician, not a doctor or scientist.

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  4. AaronS says:

    It’s one thing to offer such discounts based on PROGRESS…it’s another to offer it based on who won the genetic lottery.

    I’ve been a big guy since first grade. I will NEVER be perfectly fit, will never be “beach-grade” material. I would be happy to get measured, etc., and have a STARTING POINT and win discounts as I progress toward better results. But because someone had parents that were health nuts, an has great genetics to boot, well, I think it wouild be wrong for that guy to get a discount I can’t get.

    Might as well give discounts to whites over blacks.

    Of course, I’m a bit cynical. So there.

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  5. Trekkie says:

    This strikes me as pretty interesting actually, I’d love to see the results. (It would be interesting if they could run it randomized – say if it were offered in one region with similar general employees’ characteristics to another region where it was not offered). It may actually induce employees to become more healthy and quit smoking better than any public ad campaign ever could…

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  6. joan adams says:

    This makes too much sense to ever happen!

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  7. maeve says:

    Wow, a great idea to support healthy living….but it seems inevitable that there will be some kind of discrimination claimed.

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  8. Dean says:

    I’d heard about Mr. Mackey’s proposal but never read the specifics before. They all sound reasonable but I think applying them to the general public is problematic at best.

    For instance, his first idea about removing obstacles to create high-deductible insurance has some unintended consequences. There was a story in the paper this morning about how higher Medicare deductibles have lead to patients deferring visits to the doctor, leading to more and longer hospital stays.

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