Lampooning the Jesus’ wife hype

The inimitable Hans Fiene at Lutheran Satire on the Jesus’ wife kerfluffle and, more generally, on the mindset it represents:

Lutheran Satire – YouTube.

So what will Obamacare cover?

Here I thought Obamacare would just cover abortions and euthanasia.  (Kidding!)

It is among the health-care law’s most important — and most daunting — questions: What health-care benefits are absolutely essential?

California legislators say acupuncture makes the cut. Michigan regulators would include chiropractic services. Oregon officials would leave both of those benefits on the cutting-room floor. Colorado has deemed pre-vacation visits to travel clinics necessary, while leaving costly fertility treatments out of its preliminary package.

Policy experts expected the Affordable Care Act to establish a basic set of health benefits for the nation, but the Obama administration instead empowered each state to devise its own list. When all Americans are required to purchase health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty, they will find that the plans reflect the social and political priorities of wherever they live.

That nationwide patchwork highlights the difficulty of agreeing on what constitutes good basic health care, as well as the tricky balances that states face in weighing coverage vs. cost.

“I want a benefit package that gives people viable protection but not necessarily a Mercedes,” said Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford, who is still deciding what options to pick for his state.

If insurance plans cover too much, premiums could become prohibitively expensive. But if they skimp on coverage, the states could fail to deliver on the health law’s basic promise: extending quality health coverage to 30 million Americans.

States do have guidelines to work within: They must cover 10 broad categories outlined in the Affordable Care Act, including doctor visits, maternity care and prescription drugs. They also must use an existing health-insurance policy as a template, such as a small-group plan or the package for state employees.

Eleven states have settled on packages of essential health benefits or are close to doing so, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health. Twenty others are still in the process of choosing a plan.

While benefits for hospital care and doctor visits tend to look similar, coverage for alternative medicine and mental health services varies widely.

via Is acupuncture essential health care? Weight-loss surgery? Under Obamacare, states choose.

So some states will pay for fertility treatments, stomach-reduction surgery, and other elective procedures and some won’t.  (I wonder if my cataract surgery would have been covered.  I think I’d hesitate to make a claim for fear of getting the attention of the death panels.  [Kidding!])

Here are the ten areas that must be covered:

  1. Ambulatory patient services
  2. Emergency services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and newborn care
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
  6. Prescription drugs
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  8. Laboratory services
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

So dental and vision will be covered for children, but not for adults.  Presumably, health insurance plans at work can still offer those and other benefits.  The question is whether the Obamacare mandates will have a flattening effect on insurance offerings.

A big problem with Obamacare is that it’s so complicated and no one knows what it will really do.

Romney’s taxes

Democrats have been accusing Romney of not paying any income taxes or of hiding something in his finances.  So the Republican presidential nominee has released his 2011 returns.  It turns out, he paid 14.1% of his income to the government.  And he paid 30% to charity.   He didn’t even claim all of the charitable deductions he could have!

He also submitted a letter from his tax accountants, PriceCooperWaterhouse, saying that between 1990 and 2009, his average taxrate was 20.2% and that he never paid less than 13.66%.

So much for the Democrats’ tactic of trying to demonize the guy over his taxes, though the Washington Post article giving the details takes a strangely negative tone (saying how his taxes “would have been” only 10% if he took all of his deductions, that he could amend his return at any time, that we still don’t know the flow of his investment income, and other irrelevant attempts to put the worst construction on facts that are all to Romney’s credit).

via Mitt Romney releases tax return for 2011, showing he paid 14.1 percent tax rate – The Washington Post.

The boundary between work and home

A growing number of companies are telling employees to stop using electronics to work even when you are home.  From Cecilia Kang:

Tonight, employees at the Advisory Board have an unusual task: Stay off ­e-mail.

Stash away those smartphones and laptops, the District firm has instructed. For those who just can’t stay away, read but don’t reply. And while we’re at it, ignore your inbox throughout the weekend, too, the firm added.

The consulting firm’s push for no after-hours e-mail is part of a growing effort by some employers to rebuild the boundaries between work and home that have crumbled amid the do-more-with-less ethos of the economic downturn.

In recent years, one in four companies have created similar rules on e-mail, both formal and informal, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Firms trying out these policies include Volkswagen, some divisions of PricewaterhouseCoopers and shipping company PBD Worldwide.

For the vast majority of companies and federal offices, the muddying of work and personal time has had financial advantages. Corporations and agencies, unable to hire, are more productive than ever thanks in part to work-issued smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology, economists say.

And that presents one of the great conundrums of our recessionary era: E-mail has helped companies eke out more from each worker. But the perpetually plugged work culture is also making us feel fried.

“There is no question e-mail is an important tool, but it’s just gone overboard and encroached in our lives in a way where employees were feeling like it was harder and harder to achieve a good balance,” said Robert Musslewhite, chief executive of the Advisory Board, a health and education research and software-services firm.

Official numbers show just one in 10 people brings work home, according to a Labor Department report in 2010. But economists say that figure is wildly conservative because it counts only those who are clocking in those hours for extra pay.

More often, employees work evenings and weekends beyond their normal hours and do not record that time with their employers, labor advocacy groups say. And that’s made work bleed into just about every vacant space of time — from checking BlackBerrys and iPhones at school drop-offs, on the way home from happy hour and just after the alarm clock rings, they say.

via After-hours e-mail, companies are telling employees to avoid it – The Washington Post.

Some professions just don’t fit the 9 to 5 hourly breakdown.  If you own or are responsible for a business, you are thinking about it round-the-clock.  Even with me, a professor and college administrator, I find myself thinking about what to present in my classes or what to do about some problem at any time in the day or night, including when I toss and turn in the middle of the night (where I seem to get my best ideas).

It’s worth noting too that when Luther was articulating the doctrine of vocation, there was no boundary between work and home, since most work–farming, crafts, most trades–was done at home (as opposed to what happened after the industrial revolution when most economic labor took place away from the family).  Thus Luther wrote about the vocations of the “household,” which included both the family callings such as marriage and parenthood and what the family did to earn a living.

And yet, arguably, the invasion of the home by the workplace, abetted by technology, may well be eroding the other vocations we have.  Notice how when we hear the word “vocation” we immediately think of our “job.”  In Luther’s day and in the Biblical writings about “calling” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:17), people would first think about things like marriage.  (See our book on the subject, Family Vocations.)

There is little doubt that today people are neglecting their callings as spouse, parent, church member,  citizen, et al., because of their pre-occupation with their work and the enabling device of their smart phones.  Would you agree?  Do we need to “rebuild the boundaries between work and home”?  Or do we need to break down those boundaries, but in a different way than we have been doing?

The 47%

As you have probably heard, Mitt Romney was secretly recorded at a fundraiser saying this:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

via Fact-checking Romney’s “47 percent” comment – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

It is, in fact, true that around 47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, though they do pay payroll and sales taxes, among others.  I pose to you two possible reactions:

(1)  This is terrible!  Everyone should pay something, if only a little, to make them full stakeholders in America.  These people who pay nothing are the constituency for raising taxes on everyone else!

(2)  This is good!  The government takes too much of people’s income in taxes as it is.  We should increase the number of people who pay nothing, to the point of eliminating the income tax altogether.

Which is the more conservative reaction?

Of course, it’s another matter to say that this same 47% is also dependent, entitled, irresponsible, and the rest of Romney’s insinuations.  I know quite a few of these folks who aren’t that way.  Many of them are staunch conservatives.

Does this statement show that Romney feels contempt for almost half of the nation that he aspires to lead?  Does this statement–another example of his proclivity for undiplomatic, undisciplined, and careless statements–show him to be undiplomatic, undisciplined, and careless?  Do this make you think he is less than presidential material?

Did Chick-fil-A back down–or not?

Reports are circulating that Chick-fil-A has abandoned its practice of supporting groups that oppose gay-marriage.  But the company is denying any change of policy.

The first story:

Chick-fil-A stopped funding traditional-marriage groups in an effort to open a new Chicago restaurant, but the company initially kept quiet about the decision, prompting gay rights groups to speculate that the company feared a backlash from conservative customers.

The Christian-rooted fast food restaurant agreed to stop funding groups such as Focus on the Family that oppose same-sex marriage in a meeting with the Chicago politician who had been blocking the company’s move there. Chick-fil-A wrote a letter to Alderman Joe Moreno affirming this, according to his spokesman, Matt Bailey, but the company initially wouldn’t allow his office to release the letter to the public. Three weeks later they relented.

“There was concern from them,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director for the Civil Rights Agenda, the Illinois lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender group that negotiated with both Chick-fil-A and the alderman to stop funding for so-called anti-gay groups. “They really didn’t want to announce it, really, but, of course, the alderman needed to clarify why he was changing his stance on them opening a restaurant within his ward.”

Chick-fil-A did not returns requests for comment, and has previously said it will not discuss the issue with the media.

Mr. Martinez said Chick-fil-A told the alderman they will no longer fund groups that support traditional marriage through their charity arm, the WinShape Foundation, and will instead use that money toward educational programs and food donations.

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas,” Chick-fil-A wrote in the letter.

The second story:

Following reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to stop funding certain traditional family groups in order to get approval for a new Chicago restaurant, company President Dan Cathy said Friday the restaurant made no concessions and “we remain true to who we are.”

Cathy’s statement, posted on Mike Huckabee’s website, came one day after the company released its own statement saying that its corporate giving has “been mischaracterized” for many months and that it will continue to fund programs that “strengthen and enrich marriages.”

Said Cathy, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

Focus on the Family President Jim Daly — whose organization supposedly had been de-funded by Chick-fil-A — also has spoken up for the company. And gay activist groups — who initially applauded Chick-fil-A’s supposed move — now are criticizing the restaurant once again.

HT:  Grace

UPDATE:  Tiffany Owens at  World Magazine does a good job of sorting this out (registration required).


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