Does “Cadillac Plan” Still Mean What It Used To?

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The label “Cadillac plan” has figured prominently in the healthcare reform debate, referring to top-of-the-line coverage.

But does the term speak to the power of the Cadillac brand as “luxury”? Indeed, is Cadillac a higher luxury than a BMW? Why not call it a “Mercedes plan”? While once synonymous with luxury, Cadillac has gone more proletariat in recent years, introducing an SUV model and the CTS, both of which target younger, more hip consumers.[more]

Or is the term simply a holdover from a time when the Cadillac brand still ruled America’s luxury roost? Our less-than-comprehensive research shows the term in use as early as January 1980, when West Virginia’s Grant County Press referred to a gold-plated flood protection plan as the “Cadillac plan.” A 1984 St. Petersburg Times article spoke of a public official’s switch from a “Chevrolet state pension plan to a Cadillac state pension plan” (a usage echoed by a September 21 New York Times headline, “A Tax on Cadillac Health Plans May Also Hit the Chevys”).

Then, in 1990 the Ludington Daily News referred to a “Cadillac plan” for health insurance. The phrase took off during the Clinton health care reform debates of 1993-94.

Today, a Google News search on “Cadillac” turns up a full page of results, of which only several refer to the automobile brand.

And while its luxury legacy seems to remain in our lexicon, one wonders for how long?

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