From the Director
Like many of you, I was relieved by last year’s light hurricane season, especially since Isaac welcomed my family to New Orleans in 2012. Tropical Storm Karen ushered in this past year’s season, reminding us to continue to stay prepared and continue to build the resilience of our communities. Karen's threat was a real-time exercise for local, state, and federal authorities to employ the Gulf region's recent and ongoing advancements in coastal protection and preparedness. According to media accounts, we were ready, and I know first-hand that authorities continue to collect and analyze lessons from the experience.
All in all, the report card looks much improved compared to just after Hurricane Katrina. RAND Gulf States is proud to continue our analysis to support the evolution of the Louisiana Coastal Master plan, to further the advancement of both protection and coastal restoration in the Gulf. You can review our ongoing work. Please stay tuned for a new publication that summarizes our contributions to the Master Plan.
Another kind of impending storm facing U.S. Gulf States residents is the changing National Flood Insurance Program, which has been running a deficit after the particularly devastating 2005 season. As a consequence of changes in the program enacted by Congress in 2012, annual premiums are going up — by thousands of dollars in some cases — as prior subsidies are being phased out and premiums are adjusted to reflect FEMA's revised estimates of flood risk.
Recent RAND research funded by New York City discusses options that Congress or states may wish to consider to cope with the changes in the law and in flood risk maps. In the "Spotlight" section of this issue, I highlight a RAND study released at the end of October that estimates the cost of flood insurance premiums under the new law and new flood maps and how those higher rates may affect New York City. Although the housing stock and geography differ, the Gulf States may find some relevance in this analysis as we grapple with the implications of changes in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Feel free to share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you a healthy and prosperous 2014,
Gary Cecchine Ph.D.
Director of Research, RAND Gulf States Policy Institute
Spotlight on . . . Flood Insurance
Flooding from coastal storm surge, river overflow, and heavy rainfall is an unfortunate but common occurrence across the eastern United States. Since 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has enabled home and business owners to purchase flood insurance from the U.S. government against losses that could cost thousands of dollars worth of damage.
The NFIP has paid out billions of dollars more in compensation than it has collected in premiums since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Reducing subsidies for some classes of structures and updating the Flood Insurance Rate Maps are two means by which the U.S. Congress intended to keep the on a NFIP financially sustainable in the coming years.
A recent RAND study zeros in on how the changes in NFIP will affect New York City, the city that funded the study. The research team, led by Lloyd Dixon, found that some property owners in areas of high risk could face increases to $5,000 to $10,000 annually for their flood insurance. This could potentially lower property values, create economic hardship for individuals, and increase foreclosures and short sales, according to the study.
These rate increases and subsequent impacts could potentially be faced by many NFIP policy holders in the Gulf States, and are leaving many to wonder what can be done.
The report discusses several options that could provide residents with some relief from high increases in premiums. For example:
- Mitigate property risk: This could be done on many levels. Building owners could elevate a structure or its electrical equipment, for example, to reduce losses and facilitate quicker recovery in the event that flooding does occur.
- Improve insurance affordability: Policymakers could consider a number of strategies, including the development of an assistance program based on financial need: tax credits, grants, and vouchers could be applied towards the cost of flood insurance. Allowing higher deductibles and establishing a public program to share costs when flooding occurs are also options to consider; the higher deductibles would mean lower premiums, and a deductible-sharing program funded by the public would cover part of a large deductible when an event occurs.
Recent RAND Research
RAND Gulf States is an integral part of the RAND Corporation and its more than 1,200 researchers working around the world on many topics that are relevant to our Gulf States community. Here is a sample of recent research that may be of interest to you:
Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Sandy: Significant storms in the past decade have required the nation to build resilience — the ability to withstand day-to-day stressors and enhance the ability of citizens and infrastructures to weather negative events. Today, city planners, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropists, and government leaders are grappling with the challenge of creating disaster-resilient cities.
RAND’s new easy-to-use, self-guided online training, designed by Anita Chandra and Joie Acosta, shows organizations and communities how to strengthen their resilience — for free. Users have an opportunity to develop an action plan to build resilience, bolstering their community's capacity to respond to and recover from disaster.
Louisiana and the rural sections of Alabama and Mississippi are often cited as among the most underserved regions of the U.S. when it comes to primary medical care. Add to that the fact that the United States is expected to experience a drastic shortage of primary-care physicians, according to numerous forecasts.
Prominent groups have projected shortages of primary care physicians as high as 45,000 physicians by 2025. The expected shortage is due to a number of factors, including an increase in newly insured patients due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
RAND researchers have examined the alternatives to the current primary care model and have found ways to lessen and even lift the predicted scarcity. The policy options offered in the study, including expanding the roles of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, may have important implications for the U.S. Gulf States. The policy options described in the report may help citizens across the Gulf States access the initial treatments, diagnoses, and preventative care measures that can ultimately save their lives as well as stave off expensive hospitalizations.
The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute provides objective analysis to federal, state, and local leaders in support of evidence-based policymaking and the well-being of individuals throughout the U.S. Gulf States region.
We invite your suggestions for researchers, projects, centers, and funding or collaboration opportunities to highlight in future issues. Write to director Gary Cecchine at email@example.com.
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