Do you have “Cadillac” health insurance?

To help fund the proposed health reform measures, lawmakers are thinking about imposing a stiff tax–up to 35%–on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans. Those are defined as individual plans valued at $8,000 per year, or family plans valued at $21,000.

They typically have low deductibles, cover vision, and dental. Such plans are usually just described as “good benefits,” or “I’m really pleased with the health insurance that our company offers.” Such “Cadillac” plans are not just for high-paid executives. They are common in union contracts.

Wouldn’t taxing these good insurance benefits mean that fewer companies would offer them? Wouldn’t this result in people having poorer health care than they currently have? Doesn’t that work against the stated purpose of health care reform? How can taxing excellent plans be justified? Don’t lawmakers understand that the prospect of having worse health care than they did before the reform is what makes people leery about their tampering?

St. Damien

Father Damien was a priest who served the leper colony at Molokai in the Hawaiian islands in the 19th century. He ministered to the lepers as a missionary and tended to their physical care. After working 12 years with the lepers, he himself caught the disease and died 5 years later at the colony in 1889. On October 11, the Vatican will declare him to be a saint.

One does not have to agree with Rome’s theology of sainthood to appreciate Father Damien as one of those sublime examples of self-sacrificial love that Christianity sometimes produces and that so confound the secularists.

This is Damien, afflicted with the disease, not too long before his death:

Father Damien

Sarah Palin’s co-author

Whenever I so much as mention Sarah Palin, it provokes a shark-like feeding frenzy of her fans and her haters tearing into each other. The woman inspires so much raw emotion on both sides that it’s exceedingly odd, in my opinion. But I do not intend to talk about ex-governor Palin, as such. I want to talk about her upcoming book, which won’t be out until November 17, but its pre-orders have already made it a best seller. The link says it’s #2 on Amazon, but just now when I checked, it’s #1. The publisher has ordered a print run of 1.5 million.

Why I’m interested in this is that I know the co-author, Lynn Vincent! She was a colleague of mine at WORLD. She’s a good writer and a good person. I hope she is credited with a by-line. I also hope she gets a cut of the royalties.

I hope she is not a ghost-writer, who did all the work but gets no credit. Professional writers have to do that sort of gig sometimes, but I think it’s wrong for someone to take credit for someone else’s ideas. Lynn’s involvement is well-known, so that doesn’t seem to be the case here. But this happens all the time with books “by” celebrities. (As in that NBA player, upon being asked by a reporter about something in his book, said that he disagreed with his own book. He obviously hadn’t even read his own book.) But politicians do it too, as do big-name religious leaders.

Oh, the book is entitled Going Rogue: An American Life. If you too want to pre-order the book, you can do it here by clicking the link. If you don’t like Sarah Palin, do it for Lynn Vincent.

Want to buy a magazine?

Time Warner has announced that it is selling the magazine that gave it its first name, Time. The company, which will mainly just consist of HBO and some other TV properties, will also throw in People and Sports Illustrated. This comes on the heels of a drastic and, in my opinion, disastrous retooling of Newsweek, which has stopped printing news and is just keeping its bias, focusing on what it has done most poorly, namely analysis features.

Is there a future for weekly magazines? Do you still read any? Is everything doomed to migrate to the web? But will anyone pay for it?

Health care reform as a barrier to abortions?

I posted about this possibility before, but now pro-abortion folks are getting nervous about health care reform. The Atlantic blog reports that the laws against taxpayer money going for abortion may well mean that if health care reform gets passed, insurance companies would have to stop covering abortions:

Some of the supporters of health care reform have rediscovered worries about crowding out.  That’s because it now looks as if the bill may not allow Federal subsidies to be used to buy insurance that covers abortions.  Suddenly, a big chunk of the left sounds like a bunch of Republicans, warning about what happens to insurance markets when the government gets involved:

Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call. Opponents of abortion cite as precedent a 30-year-old ban on the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions.

Abortion-rights supporters say such a restriction would all but eliminate from the marketplace private plans that cover the procedure, pushing women who have such coverage to give it up. Nearly half of those with employer-sponsored health plans now have policies that cover abortion, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The question looms as a test of President Obama’s campaign pledge to support abortion rights but seek middle ground with those who do not. Mr. Obama has promised for months that the health care overhaul would not provide federal money to pay for elective abortions, but White House officials have declined to spell out what he means.

Wouldn’t that be a good outcome?

UPDATE: Senators are fighting strengthening the anti-abortion provisions, but, as I understand it, so far the ban against federal funding would stand. See also this.

The vocation of an astronaut

Astronaut Jeff Williams is blasting off into space today on a Russian rocket, headed to the International Space Station where he will spend 6 months. This will be his third space voyage and his second 6 month stint on the space station. He will be among the leaders in time spent in outer space.

He is a devout Christian and a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Our paths have crossed several times–he is a fan of my book on vocation!–and I have gotten to know him. Pray for a safe blastoff today. And pray for him from time to time on his long, long mission away from his family. (He’s also written a book that I wrote an introduction for. Stay tuned for news about that.)

So let’s consider the vocation of an astronaut. How can a space traveller live out his faith in that particular line of work? How can he love and serve his neighbor?

UPDATE: The launch went well, and he’s in orbit. Thanks to Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren for posting a video of the launch, which includes both the blastoff and shots inside the capsule. (Jeff is the astronaut above and to the right.) Paul also posts some more details, including how to sign up to get Jeff’s twitter feed from orbit. His last message closed with “sdg,” the same letters Bach used to conclude his musical compositions: “Soli Deo Gloria,” to God alone be the glory.