Health insurance of the future; an idea that can work.

And it will begin with large corporations who are self-insured.

The largest 500 corporations in America employ millions of people—and the cost of healthcare for those people is in the billions. Walmart alone, in the #2 position on the 2012 Fortune 500 list, employs over two million people. Ford (9th largest) employs 165,000 and Bank of America (13th largest) employs almost 300,000. Whole Foods Market (264th largest) employs 60,000.

The cost of health care. In a 2012 Towers Watson Survey of 512 companies in the United States, the average cost of healthcare per employee was around $11,000, most of which is being paid by the employer. I recently saw a 5-minute video online (provided below) of the CEO of Whole Foods Market talking about the cost of health care.

He reported that health care is costing his company $200 million a year and that they have launched a new way of lowering those costs. They have started promoting health. He knows that “disease management” is very expensive and continues to go up each year—and he also knows that those costs can be reduced dramatically by simply helping employees learn to eat the right food. And that approach is paying off for Whole Foods.

John Mackey, Founder & CEO of Whole Foods Market

In the video, he reported that in just the past few years, the total cost of healthcare as a percent of sales had been declining. He has committed to building a strong “wellness culture” throughout the entire organization. He knows that not only does a healthy employee incur less costs, but that  a healthy employee is more productive—and ultimately, better for the bottom line of the company.

A new kind of insurance. As a self-insured company, Whole Foods is in a great position to begin experimenting with a new idea that Dr. John McDougall is proposing. Most large employers are already in the health insurance business. But only a very few, like Whole Foods, who are beginning to seriously promote health—are well-positioned to set up a second insurance plan which will be offered only to employees who qualify.

How do they qualify? By first being given education and training, then eating a much healthier diet and ultimately, achieving superior numbers when it comes to cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and other key indicators. Once those employees have effectively taken charge of their own health, they would be offered the opportunity to join the “Healthy Employee Insurance” plan. And once they do, their monthly healthcare premium will go down by 50 to 75%.

And how does that plan work? As Dr. McDougall explained in his recent video on this topic, members of the new plan must understand that there are many things that will no longer be covered. Things like PSA tests, mammograms, aggressive treatment for diabetes and coronary artery disease, etc. This may shock some people at first—until they realize the facts. Healthy people, who’ve taken charge of their own health, will not need those kinds of treatments and tests and will not want to be paying the bill for those who do.

Dr. John McDougall

As news of this “insurance plan” spreads, more and more people will be motivated to qualify for it: sign up for the training, learn how to make the dietary transition as they begin to enjoy the many benefits of taking charge of their own health. I concluded long ago that it would be big corporations who would ultimately “tame the healthcare monster” in this country. That’s because they’re the only ones with a financial incentive to do so.

By creating a new kind of health insurance company within their corporation, these pioneering CEOs will be laying the groundwork for a complete overhaul of two major industries in this country: the food industry and the health industry. In the words of a famous American philosopher, this is what we have today:

People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health…and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.—-Wendell Berry

In this one-hour video by Dr. John McDougall, he explains in greater detail his “health insurance idea” discussed above. If you’re already familiar with Dr. McDougall, you should begin viewing the 27-minute mark. The first half of the video is devoted to his background.

When Dr. McDougall talked about doing away with PSA tests and mammograms, he backed up his statements with some hard facts by several highly respected organizations. One of them was the Cochrane Collaboration. Here’s how they describe themselves:

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international network of more than 28,000 dedicated people from over 100 countries.

Our vision is that healthcare decision-making throughout the world will be informed by high-quality, timely research evidence.” We work together to help healthcare providers, policy-makers, patients, their advocates and carers, make well-informed decisions about health care, by preparing, updating, and promoting the accessibility of Cochrane Reviews – over 5,000 so far, published online in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, part of The Cochrane Library.

Here is that John Mackey video mentioned earlier. Take five minutes to see how the Whole Foods CEO promotes health and brings down the cost of health care. A true win-win for all concerned.

The Bottom Line. The health care system in this country will change and so will the food industry. It is inevitable. As a few pioneering CEOs  begin teaching their people how to take charge of their own health, other CEOs will be forced to follow suit in order to be competitive. The food industry will follow suit and will produce the plant-based foods that the healthy people are now demanding.

This whole process must start somewhere. And it has, with CEO John Mackey at Whole Foods MarketEarlier in this blog, I mentioned the “wellness culture” that he is building at Whole Foods. It is important to emphasize that ALL employees should be included—not just the ones who have health benefits with the company.

Healthy employees, regardless of age or number of hours per week, are better employees. And better employees make for better, more profitable companies. The most successful CEOs will be those who weave “self-health-promotion” deeply into the cultural fabric of the enterprise. And the companies who choose not to promote health—will have trouble competing with those who do. (My 632nd consecutive daily blog)

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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5 Responses to Health insurance of the future; an idea that can work.

  1. Jim,

    I can see why you are so enthusiastic about Kaiser’s official lone voice in the wilderness stand on nutrition. But the more I think of it the more I feel it is “too little too late”, Here is an analogy to boating.

    I’ve been an ocean yachtsman for decades, normally insured through Lloyds. I take great pride in safety and annually spend five figures on maintenance, yet with a decades-long perfect no claim record my insurance bill kept rising. When I challenged my agent on this he told me the reason was not me, but the claims of others that the underwriters had to recover. When I correlated that with the jerks I’ve noticed on the water these days I had one of those eureka moments. When I reviewed what I had spent on insurance over the years to pay for the preventable losses of others I just got fed up and canceled my insurance. For over ten years now, I’ve self insured, placing the premiums in a recovery fund in the event of an accident. My savings have been HUGE and I operate even more cautiously these days because of it. Still, if I could purchase total loss insurance at a reasonable cost I might consider it.

    In a like manner, I feel health insurance in a managed economy is a scam – forcing healthy people to pay the bills of preventably unhealthy ones. It is no secret the industry considers the major profit center denying claims. So a policyholder really has no idea whether ANY claim will be paid. I ask you, what good is insurance if it does not pay legitimate claims? My solutions are as follows:

    live healthy to minimize expense which statistics show produces a HUGE savings.
    place annual insurance premiums in a reserve account which will grow to five figures in a decade and keep growing and pay for a lot care which I CONTROL, not some insurance claims agent out to earn himself a bonus by denying claims.
    negotiate discounts with health providers for cash. I typically propose 50% which is accepted most of the time
    I encourage the insurance industry to create a catastrophe policy for us – healthy people aggressively avoiding preventable diseases. It should feature huge discounts over SAD eaters. So you should admonish Kaiser to start putting its money where its mouth is and in addition to its nutrition bleatings it should offer hefty discounts to 4leaf consumers for catastrophic iron-clad coverage.

    Until this happens discriminating consumers should vote with their feet. If enough do, the insurance industry and the government will get the message.


  2. Userette says:

    Having gone through many hurricanes in my life, I hope this finds you and your family safe.

  3. Nigel Richardson says:

    I endorse your blog and Joanne’s reply. It is easy to be cynical about our senators, every one of whom is beholden to the food industry is some way or another, but they have enormous influence for better or for worse. I plan to write to my senators from Georgia, Isakson and Chambliss, the latter of whom is on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee.

  4. Joanne Irwin says:

    Great blog, Jim. Take a chance and send it to each Senator. Perhaps something will click with ONE of them. This is an idea whose time has come. Similar to auto insurance that rewards good drivers with lower premiums, individuals who take charge of their health and wellness with good nutrition, resulting in good numbers, will, also, be rewarded with lower health insurance premiums.
    I’m definitely going to spread this on Facebook. Jim, I’d like to feature you and this article in my November newsletter. Let me know if I have permission to share. Thanks for all you are doing.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Joanne. Thanks for your comment. As for my permission—you, and every other person who ever reads anything on this site, has my explicit permission to feature me and my work anywhere—and as often—as you please. Only by sharing these ideas with others will they actually come true. Be well, Jim

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