Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder, John Mackey, has caused quite a stir among consumers and shoppers with the new incentive wellness program he is offering to employees at Whole Foods Markets across the country. Part incentive program and part health care plan, Mackey is offering a free discount program to employees who weigh less, don't smoke, have low blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) rates. The plan is voluntary and you are not required to sign up for it, but in a letter sent to all Whole Foods Stores last week, Mackey says that he, "hopes the incentive drives down the company's health insurance costs, because we believe this is a win-win program."
Under this new discount program there will be four levels that employees can earn based on their health status. Each level on the ladder corresponds to the discount on groceries an employee is eligible to receive. Platinum employees will receive a 30 percent discount on all groceries; gold status employees can enjoy 27 percent off groceries; silver gives you a 25 percent discount; bronze gets you a 22 percent discount; and of course, there is the option for employees who choose to do nothing, or who do not sign up for this screening program, who still get to enjoy the regular 20 percent discount.
According to Whole Foods spokesman, Michael Sinatra, this program not only offers "a great discount" but it also provides employees with an "opportunity for free health screenings." While this wellness program is great in theory, many folks are questioning if Mackey and Whole Foods Markets are sending the wrong message to employees: The fatter you are the smaller your discount? Or the more fit you are the more you are rewarded at work?
Whole Foods Employees Weigh in On New Wellness Program
While the specifics of this wellness program were just disseminated to Whole Foods Stores across the nation last week, there is no final headcount yet about what percentage of employees are signing up for this program, or what percentage of employees are enjoying platinum status.
John Mackey-The Whole Picture
Whole Foods Market's most recent wellness incentive program comes only months after John Mackey's article, The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare- Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit, appeared in the Wall Street Journal and raised some serious eyebrows. In his article Mackey is not shy about pointing the finger at Americans and telling them that they have no one to blame for poor health but themselves. "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."
While Mackey's points may be true and backed by statistics and science, his delivery is often considered food for the fodder, making folks think of him as a little "out there" and prone to "sticking his foot in his mouth."
A vegetarian for more than 30 years and a vegan for the past five, Mackey is not afraid to voice his opinions loud and clear about the health of our nation. In the summer of 2009, after reading "The Engine 2 Diet," by Rip Esselstyn, and learning how to cut vegetable oils, sugar and anything processed from his diet, he put all Whole Foods Markets on a "diet" claiming that his stores sold too much junk food.
The Whole Truth-How Do You Weigh In?
With health care reform on the front burner and the recession still taking it toll on Americans in various ways, Mackey's wellness incentive program might just be his not-so-subtle way of telling Americans things they don't want to hear. Any way you slice it, Mackey is in the food business but seems to be more and more prone to starting food fights than anything else.
Do you think it is unfair for companies to offer employees wellness benefits to help keep health care costs down, or are companies overstepping their bounds and rewarding employees unfairly? Share your thoughts in the comments below.