Archive for December 10th, 2009

Immanuel – God With Us

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

עִמָּנוּאֵל

Ἐμμανουήλ

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 (New International Version)

Middle-Class, Get Ready for Health Care ‘Sticker Shock’

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Looks like Obama and the Dems are going to hit us hard on this one. No surprise there.

WASHINGTON — Health care overhaul now looks like it really will happen, with a compromise coming together in the Senate to give uninsured Americans options they’ve never had before. But it won’t be a free ride.

Have your checkbooks and credit cards ready. There’s a price for health care security — particularly for solid middle-class households, who wouldn’t get much help with premiums.

President Barack Obama hailed the Senate agreement Wednesday, building expectations that the yearlong fight over revamping health care had finally come down to the bill now emerging.

That measure, like the Medicare prescription drug benefit that passed when Republicans ran Washington, would offer consumers a dizzying lineup of health plan choices — with different costs and benefits.

“People who need to buy coverage as individuals and small employers are going to have a lot more in the way of attractive health insurance options, and they won’t have to worry about whether their medical condition precludes them from being covered,” said policy expert Paul Ginsburg, who heads the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change.

The downside: “Sticker shock is going to come to some.”

Get ready for a whole new set of trade-offs.

For example, people in their 50s and early 60s, when health problems tend to surface, are likely to pay less than they would now. Those in their 20s and 30s, who get the best deals today, will face higher premiums, though for better coverage.

The tentative deal by Democratic senators would give millions of Americans the option of signing up for private plans sponsored by the federal employee health system, which covers some 8 million, including members of Congress. The compromise, which also offers people age 55 to 64 the option of buying into Medicare, appears to have given Democrats a way around the deal-breaker issue of a new government plan to compete with private carriers. Senators continued to debate for a 10th day, with Democrats pushing to pass the bill by Christmas.

The 2,074-page Senate bill will grow even longer as amendments are considered, but the basic outlines of the legislation most likely to pass are becoming clearer.

The overhaul will be phased in slowly, over the next three to four years. But eventually all Americans will be required to carry coverage or face a tax penalty, except in cases of financial hardship. Insurers won’t be able to deny coverage to people with health problems, or charge them more or cut them off.

Most of the uninsured will be covered, but not all. As many as 24 million people would remain uninsured in 2019, many of them otherwise eligible Americans who still can’t afford the premiums. Lawmakers propose to spend nearly $1 trillion over 10 years to provide coverage, most of the money going to help lower-income people. But a middle-class family of four making $66,000 would still have to pay about 10 percent of its income in premiums, not counting co-payments and deductibles.

No dramatic changes are in store for most people who get coverage through their jobs — about 60 percent of those under age 65. The Congressional Budget Office says the bill wouldn’t have a major effect on premiums under employer plans, now about $13,000 a year. Parents would be able to keep dependent children on their coverage longer, age 27 in the House bill.

One benefit for people with employer coverage is hard to quantify: It should be easier to get health insurance if they’re laid off.

The real transformation under the legislation would come for those who now have the most trouble finding and keeping coverage: people who buy their own insurance or work for small businesses. About 30 million could pick from an array of plans through new insurance supermarkets called exchanges.

Some people’s taxes would go up.

To pay for expanded coverage, the House bill imposes a 5.4 percent income tax surcharge on individuals making more than $500,000 and families earning more than $1 million. The Senate slaps a 40 percent tax on insurance plans with premiums above $8,500 for individual coverage and $23,000 for family plans, among other levies.

The rest of the financing would come mainly from cuts in federal payments to insurers, hospitals, home health care agencies and other medical providers serving Medicare.

Preventive benefits for seniors would be improved. So would prescription coverage. But people enrolled in private plans through the Medicare Advantage program are likely to see higher out-of-pocket costs and reduced benefits as overpayments to insurers are scaled back.

Original Link.

Hamas Preparing ‘Offensive’ Tunnels

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Israel is likely to face advanced Iranian weaponry, long-range rockets, large missile silos and dozens of kilometers of underground tunnels connecting open fields with urban centers in the event of a future conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to the latest Israeli assessments.

Since Operation Cast Lead ended almost a year ago, Hamas has increased its weapons smuggling and today operates hundreds of tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. It has smuggled in dozens of long-range Iranian-made rockets that can reach Tel Aviv as well as advanced anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles.

Hamas is believed to have a significant number of shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles and 9M113 Konkurs, which have a range of four kilometers and are capable of penetrating heavy armor.

In addition, Hamas is believed to have today a few thousand rockets, including several hundred with a range of 40 kilometers and several dozen with a range of between 60 and 80 km. Intelligence assessments are thatHamas smuggled the missiles into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, possibly in several components.

Original Link.

10 Million Could Lose Employer Coverage Under Senate Health Bill

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Well, that’s certainly going to help insure people…NOT!!

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 10 million people could lose their employer-based insurance coverage under the Senate’s health care reform bill.

In new figures out Monday, the nonpartisan office said the net loss would add up to about 5 million — the anticipated loss of employer coverage on one end would be offset in part by the expectation that a new mandate would drive other employers to cover millions more workers who are not currently covered.

But the estimate assumes many employers, particularly small businesses with low-wage workers, would opt to pay the fine and drop their insurance plans. The CBO estimated this would affect between 9 million and 10 million workers.

The estimate was provided after Republicans pressed the CBO for details on employer coverage, and it added fuel to the GOP argument that President Obama’s claim that nobody will be forced to give up their private coverage is bunk. It comes in the middle of a heated debate in the Senate over whether and how the government should enter the market with its own insurance plan.

“If you like what you have you can’t keep it,” the Senate Republican office said in an e-mail highlighting the CBO report and keying off the president’s refrain.

Though some of those who lose their coverage would be eligible for government subsidies to buy insurance, some would not, according to the CBO.

For instance, a family of four making more than $88,000 would not qualify for subsidies and could face even higher premiums in the private market.

Original Link.