Friday, January 15, 2010

Community Prayer Vigil

Please join me for this community prayer vigil for the people of Haiti.

St. James United Methodist Church
5540 Wayne, Kansas City Mo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
at 7:00 pm

We encourage you to pass along this email to friends and family.

All are welcome.

Updates on Haiti


Learn more about the William J. Clinton Foundation's Haiti Earthquake Relief efforts. Financial Donations

Donate $10 to the American Red Cross – charged to your cell phone bill – by texting "HAITI" to "90999."

Contribute online to the Red Cross

Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.

Get Information about Friends or Family

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). You can also send an email to the State Department.

Haitian citizens in the U.S. can also call the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C., (202)-332-4090, or the Haitian Consulate in New York City, (305)-859-2003.

Please be aware that communications within Haiti are very difficult at this time.

Our office can also be of assistance in contacting the State Department for residents of Missouri’s Fifth District: 816-842-4545

The Response
  • The first waves of rescue and relief workers are on the ground and at work.
  • Yesterday, a survey team worked to identify priority areas for assistance, and shared the results of that review throughout the United States government.
  • Search and rescue teams are actively working to save lives.
  • Injured Americans are being quickly moved out of Haiti and efforts are continuing to ascertain the status of all 45,000 Americans in Haiti.
  • The US military has now secured the airport and are restoring communications and air traffic control so heavy equipment and resources can be delivered as part of the international airlift.
  • The airlift has begun to deliver high-priority items like water and medicine.
  • Right now in Haiti roads are impassable, the main port is badly damaged, communications equipment is beginning to arrive.
  • Several Coast Guard cutters are already off the coast and are beginning to provide basic services.
  • Elements of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division arrived late last night.
  • The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit has now left port in North Carolina today aboard the ships USS Bataan, USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall. Over 2,000 Marines and sailors will be on board as part of the deployment.
  • The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will arrive in the early hours of this morning, it was outfitted with 19 additional helicopters and supplies while in route.
  • The Navy's hospital ship, the USS Comfort is underway from Baltimore to Haiti.
  • The President announced yesterday an immediate investment of $100 million to support our relief efforts.
  • Vice President Biden will meet in South Florida this weekend with members of the Haitian American community.

The latest on the health care negotiations

There are many sticking points yet to be hashed out, but there does appear to be a plan emerging on how to deal with what has been called the tax on “Cadillac” health plans that the Senate added to its bill. All of us are just now reading the potential compromise, so this is a very early report on what I am hearing.

Essentially insurance plans that are a result of collective bargaining would be exempt through 2018. It is important to note, this is a tax on insurance companies that market and sell high-cost plans. The tax will hit only 3 percent of the premiums of the plans that they sell, and they can avoid it by selling a more affordable health care plans.

The threshold at which the tax on so-called “Cadillac plans” has been adjusted as a result of this deal — increasing from $23,000 a year for a family policy, to $24,000.

The threshold is even higher for certain plans with older workers and women, a move to benefit unions with a high proportion of female membership.

The agreement on the high-premium excise tax would:
  • Include permanent adjustments based on age, gender and high-risk professions – factors that affect the cost of health plans regardless of the generosity of the benefits they provide. This makes good sense, as it focuses the impact on plans that provide the highest-cost benefits – not those that happen to cover the highest-cost workers.

  • Exempts the cost of dental and vision plans from the cost of coverage. These benefits are outside the core health spending which this provision is aimed at slowing.

  • Provide transition relief to help employers, insurers and workers adjust to the permanent provision. This includes a transition period for high-cost states, as well as providing health plans for state and local workers and collectively bargained plans a 5-year transition window before being subject to the tax. This is similar to the approach in other areas of the bill – including insurance market reforms and the insurer fee – where transition periods are built in to give stakeholders time to adjust.
More talks on other elements of the bill are underway, but this was one of the large differences between the House and Senate plans.