Environment, public health

At least 1.4 million people in North Carolina experiencing drinking water shortage, uncertainty after hurricane

 

More than 1.4 million people on public and community water systems don’t have reliable drinking water, as of Tuesday afternoon. The problems are plaguing 219 of the state’s 481 permitted systems. Source: Department of Public Safety

Low water pressure, no water, potentially contaminated water: More than 1.4 million people in North Carolina don’t have a reliable source of water from their public systems, according to the NC Department of Public Safety.

This figure doesn’t include people who are on private drinking water wells and whose systems could be polluted or shut off because of flooding. The safety of private wells is under the Department of Health and Human Services.

Forty-six percent of 481 public and community systems — such as those serving mobile home parks — are not fully functioning.

(Scroll to the bottom of the story for a comprehensive list, broken out by reason for the outage, name of the system and number of customers affected.)

Affected cities and towns include Rockingham, Oak Island and Grifton. Morgan Elementary School in Gold Hill, near Salisbury, has no water because the system has failed to operate

Of the affected people on public water, more than 38,000 are customers of public and/or community systems that can’t produce any water and are essentially closed.

Another 270,000 people are experiencing low water pressure; 19,000 are waiting for test results on their water to determine whether it is safe to drink. More than 1 million people are on water systems that are operating off emergency interconnections — borrowing water from other suppliers — are on backup power or are using only stored water. The McCain Correctional Hospital, in Raeford,  is among the systems using an emergency interconnect.

And a half-million people are under boil water orders or advisories, according to environmental officials.

CLOSED: SYSTEM NOT PRODUCING WATER 
NameTotal number of customers
ATLANTIC MHP113
ATLANTIC MHP II106
BIG RIDGE MHP50
BILLY K CAMPGROUND180
BLADEN BLUFFS WATER SYSTEM4589
BOLTON, TOWN OF750
CAMERON BOYS CAMP75
CAMP DON-LEE200
CASTLE CREEK MEMORY CARE86
CIRCLE D MHP91
COVIA CORPORATION43
DOWN EAST MHP107
GOOSE CREEK RESORT1600
GREEN ACRES MHP229
HUNTING ESTATES80
INTERNATIONAL PAPER ADMINISTATIVE SYSTEM30
INTERNATIONAL PAPER COMPANY750
INTERNATIONAL PAPER- NEW BERN MILL375
LAKE ROAD MHP40
LEA`S WATERFRONT MHP99
LIGHTHOUSE WAY MHP & APTS38
MAYSVILLE, TOWN OF1100
MCAS BT11-PINEY ISLAND25
MORGAN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL539
NATIONAL SPINNING COMPANY WHITEVILLE275
NEWPORT RIDGE MHP71
NORRIS MHP91
OCEAN SPRAY MH S/D368
PERDUE FOODS LLC2000
PORT OF MOREHEAD CITY174
PORT OF WILMINGTON280
RIVERSTONE99
SANDERSON FARMS1300
SEA SCAPE60
SMITHFIELD FRESH MEATS CORP - TAR HEEL4589
SURF CITY, TOWN OF5606
THE VILLAGE OF BALD HEAD ISLAND3254
TOPSAIL BEACH, TOWN OF3198
USMC LEJEUNE--ONSLOW BEACH320
WILLOW POINT MOBILE HOME PARK22
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH WATER SYST5212
Total number of systems 41
Total number of customers 38214
Water pressure problems 
Name of systemNo. of customers
BELVEDERE PLANTATION3195
BRAGG ESTATES WATER SYSTEM363
BROOKWOOD COMM WTR SYSTEM15665
BRUNSWICK COUNTY WATER SYSTEM95739
CHANDA`S RIDGE70
CLARENDON GARDENS S/D276
GRAY`S CREEK MHP212
HARKERS VILLAGE S/D94
JONES COUNTY WATER SYSTEM8999
KINSTON, CITY OF27475
LAURINBURG, CITY OF17242
OAK ISLAND, TOWN OF23635
ROBESON COUNTY WATER SYSTEM64295
SAMPSON CO WTR DIST I-ROSEBORO148
SCOTLAN CO WATER-NORTH2566
SCOTLAND CO WATER-SOUTH3424
SEAGATE IV105
SOUTHPORT CITY OF6447
WRIGHTSBORO S/D100
Total no. of systems19
Total no. of customers
270050
Needs testing to clear advisory 
Name of systemNo. customers
ALBANY ACRES S/D81
ALTICE ESTATES S/D320
BELLA VISTA S/D25
CAMELOT S/D604
CREEKSTONE S/D498
FAIRFIELD HARBOUR4610
HARDSCRABBLE S/D640
HUNTER`S RIDGE S/D92
LEGEND HILLS S/D81
MAXTON, TOWN OF3125
NOTTINGHAM FOREST S/D543
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, TOWN OF7051
OLDE MILLS LAKE S/D96
PACEVILLE S/D58
RED MOUNTAIN S/D173
ROYAL ACRES S/D63
STANLEY STONE ESTATES52
STEPHANIE WOODS S/D245
SWEET BRIAR S/D143
THORNBURG S/D165
TIMBERLINE SHORES210
WEYERHAEUSER-SOUTHERN LUMBER185
Total no. of systems: 22
Total no. of customers: 19060
No Power 
NameNo. of customers
EAGLE`S NEST #124
EAGLE`S NEST #224
HARBOR HOUSE S/D142
JACKSON HEIGHTS MHP200
LEA ACRES WATER CO INC120
MELBILLE HEIGHTS96
MISSION PARK B&L TRAILER COURT65
OAKLEY MHP92
OSPREY COVE 1475
OYSTER POINT S/D99
RHA HOWELL CARE CENTER CLEAR CREEK302
ROBINFIELD ESTATES S/D124
SHADY HAVEN MHP46
SHERWOOD MHP353
SPERANZA`S MHP90
No. of systems affected 15
No. of customers2252
Operating off emergency interconnect 
NameNo. of customers
DOC-MCCAIN HOSPITAL850
DUBLIN, TOWN OF447
EAST ARCADIA, TOWN OF609
GREENFIELD HEIGHTS S/D145
GRIFTON, TOWN OF2800
JASON WATER CORPORATION331
PARKTON, TOWN OF487
RIEGELWOOD SANITARY DISTRICT460
ROCKINGHAM, CITY OF13159
SHINE WATER CORPORATION447
TAR HEEL WATER CORP250
TURKEY, TOWN OF300
Total No. of systems12
Total no. of customers20285
Operating backup power 
NameNo. of customers
ABERDEEN, TOWN OF9935
ATLANTIC BEACH, TOWN OF6380
AURORA WATER SYSTEM502
BALLOU MHP95
BEAUFORT CO SOUTHSIDE9203
BEAUFORT, TOWN OF4539
BEULAVILLE, TOWN OF1326
BISHOPS RIDGE S/D170
BLADEN CO WTR DIST-EAST BLADEN3853
BLADEN CO WTR DIST-WEST BLADEN11844
BOGUE BANKS WATER CORPORATION4995
BRANDYWINE BAY2189
BURGAW, TOWN OF4250
CABARRUS ACRES WATER SYSTEM46
CALYPSO, TOWN OF660
CAMERON, TOWN OF490
CAROLINA BEACH WATER SYSTEM10632
CFPUA/MONTEREY HEIGHTS8202
CFPUA/NHC29052
CFPUA-WILMINGTON137414
CHADWICK MHP90
CHINQUAPIN WATER ASSOCIATION4686
CHOCOWINITY WATER SYSTEM2550
CLARKTON, TOWN OF1500
CLINTON, CITY OF12410
CRAVEN COUNTY WATER SYSTEM32500
DOT-CEDAR ISLAND FERRY TERM200
DUPLIN COUNTY WATER SYSTEM17000
EASTMAN CREEK LANDING S/D335
ELIZABETHTOWN, TOWN OF5212
FIGURE 8 ISLAND999
FREMONT, TOWN OF1463
GLYNNWOOD MHP208
GREENEVERS, TOWN OF1390
GRIMESLAND, TOWN OF610
HARKERS ISLAND SANITARY DIST2358
HARNETT CO DEPT OF PUBLIC UTIL98905
HARRELLS WATER CORP1633
HAVELOCK WATER SYSTEM14246
JACKSONVILLE CITY OF45598
KENANSVILLE, TOWN OF876
KURE BEACH WATER SYSTEM5110
LAURADALE S/D2527
LUMBERTON, CITY OF25590
MANN`S MHP40
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT17144
MCAS ATLANTIC FIELD32
MERRIMON WATER SYSTEM71
MINTZ CHRISTIAN ACADEMY150
MOREHEAD CITY, TOWN OF9420
MOUNTAINBROOK S/D152
NEUSE REGIONAL WTR & SWR AUTH93238
NEW BERN, CITY OF30070
NEWPORT WATER SYSTEM4827
NORTH RIVER/MILL CREEK WATER SERVICE DIS2800
NORTHWEST ONSLOW WATER ASSOC1890
ONSLOW WTR AND SEWER AUTHORITY126761
ORIENTAL WATER SYSTEM903
PAMLICO COUNTY WATER15546
PEMBROKE, TOWN OF4111
PENDER COUNTY UTILITIES18000
PIKEVILLE, TOWN OF714
PINE KNOLL SHORES3861
POTTERS HILL WATER ASSOCIATION94
PRUITT HEALTH AT SEA LEVEL102
RED SPRINGS, TOWN OF4493
ROSE HILL, TOWN OF1862
ROWLAND, TOWN OF1341
SALEMBURG, TOWN OF850
SAMPSON CO WTR DIST II8670
SANDERSON`S MHP34
SEAGATE I345
SIDBURY`S MHP101
SNUG HARBOR ON NELSON BAY108
SOUTHERN PINES, TOWN OF17379
STERLINGSHIRE S/D147
THE CAPE MASTER SYSTEM9728
TOPSAIL GREENS S/D549
TOWN OF ATKINSON301
TREASURE COVE S/D760
USMC LEJEUNE-DEVIL DOG-VERONA LOOP800
USMC LEJEUNE--HADNOT POINT37500
USMC LEJEUNE--HOLCOMB BLVD17000
USMC LEJEUNE--NEW RIVER AIR ST11500
USMC LEJEUNE--RIFLE RANGE750
WADE, TOWN OF835
WAGRAM, TOWN OF801
WALLACE, TOWN OF5825
WALNUT CREEK VILLAGE990
WARSAW, TOWN OF3151
WAYNE WATER DISTRICTS32426
WAYNE WATER DISTRICTS PURCHASE16302
WEST CARTERET WATER CORP15311
WHITE LAKE, TOWN OF2500
WHITE STREET INDUSTRIAL PARK800
Total no. systems 95
Total no. customers 1046858
Using stored water only 
NameNo. of customers
BRUNSWICK REGIONAL WATER AND SEWER H2GO25583
CASTLE BAY S/D685
HOLDEN BEACH, TOWN OF6200
SIMMONS HEIGHTS APARTMENTS35
NC Budget and Tax Center, public health

Medicaid and Medicare mark 53rd anniversary by continuing to serve millions of North Carolinians today

Medicaid and Medicare were signed into law on July 30, 1965 – exactly 53 years ago this week.

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare and Medicaid Bill (July 30, 1965). LBJ Library photo

Since these programs were created, they have given millions of people access to a doctor so they can maintain their health. Over the long-term, these programs have provided significant returns on investment, such as benefiting children into adulthood by lowering disability rates and increasing their earning income potential. Today, these two healthcare programs are worth celebrating and expanding even further as they continue to serve millions of Americans and North Carolinians each day.

In North Carolina, 2.3 million people receive comprehensive, affordable health coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. Meanwhile, 1.8 million North Carolinians (18 percent of the population) are served by Medicare, which serves people over 65, younger people with disabilities, and dialysis patients.

At a time when some lawmakers in Congress and in our state’s General Assembly minimize the value of these critical healthcare programs and limit their potential, it is important to celebrate the 53rd anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare and recognize that their continued evolvement have helped transform the lives of millions of people in positive ways. In recognition of their 53rd anniversary, here are five facts and three charts that provide a quick glimpse into their reach, structure and impact.

Fact 1: North Carolina’s health insurance gap coverage gap needs to be closed: In 2016, North Carolina had the 9th-highest uninsured rate (16.2%) in the nation for ages 18-64. This is above the national average of 12.4 percent.

Fact 2: North Carolina’s legislature has rejected Medicaid expansion since 2013: If North Carolina expands Medicaid, over 600,000 more people in the state would receive healthcare coverage and $4 billion would be added to our state’s economy annually.

Fact 3: Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal government and the states: In North Carolina, the federal government pays for 66 percent of Medicaid’s costs, and the state pays the remaining 34 percent, resulting in a 2:1 federal “match.”

Fact 4: The Medicaid system is efficient: For every dollar spent on Medicaid, 94 cents is spent directly on health services. Furthermore, Medicaid’s costs increased at about one-fourth the rate of private insurance since 2007.

Fact 5: Women comprise 55 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in North Carolina: The average age of a Medicare beneficiary in our state is 71. In 2016, 1.5 million seniors and 321,600 people with disabilities in North Carolina were Medicare beneficiaries.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

 

public health

Trump Administration reverses decision to freeze insurer payments, undermining ACA coverage

Just weeks after the Trump administration announced it would suspend a program that helps health insurers cover the costs of high-risk enrollees, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it had adopted language that will now allow the agency to distribute more than $10 billion from a “risk adjustment” pool.

The national, nonpartisan Families USA said Wednesday it was relieved the Trump administration had reversed “its ill-conceived decision” to stop the risk adjustment payments, which help insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions.

While the risk adjustment program costs the government nothing, it is vital to the functioning of the market for people who buy coverage on their own because it facilitates the pooling of risk, keeping costs stable for consumers, including people with pre-existing conditions.

“The risk adjustment program prevents health insurance plans that happen to get a larger share of high-cost enrollees than other plans from being at a financial disadvantage. Without risk adjustment in place, plans will have a strong financial incentive to cherry-pick patients who cost less to insure and put up as many barriers as possible for people with preexisting conditions and others with high health care costs.

The New York Times explains the reversal was driven by both nervous Republicans and insurers:

If payments are not made, it said, “there is a serious risk” that insurers will substantially increase premiums in 2019 to make up for the loss. The higher premiums could make coverage unaffordable for some consumers, especially those who do not qualify for subsidies, it said.

Insurers are now deciding whether to participate in the marketplace in 2019 and setting the rates and benefits of the plans they intend to offer next year.

Republicans in Congress, afraid of being blamed in the midterm elections this year for even higher premiums, had urged the Trump administration to resume the payments to insurers.

Read the full NYT article here.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is expected to file its rate request for 2019 later this summer.

Commentary, public health, Trump Administration

Another act of health care sabotage over the weekend from the Trump administration

Donald Trump speaking

President Donald Trump

On Saturday, the Trump administration announced it would temporarily suspend a program that helps health insurers in the individual market cover the costs of high-risk enrollees, injecting uncertainty into the health insurance markets that could lead to higher premiums and fewer insurers offering coverage.

Sound familiar? It should, as it’s just the latest of many Trump administration efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including a similar effort from last October when the Trump administration abruptly cut off reimbursement payments to health insurers for subsidies they provide to consumers with low incomes. That action caused North Carolinians to pay a premium hike of 14.1 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC plans this year.

The insurance industry is already sounding the alarm about this decision. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a statement shortly after the announcement highlighting the sabotage effect:

We are very discouraged by the new market disruption brought about by the decision to freeze risk adjustment payments. This decision comes at a critical time when insurance providers are developing premiums for 2019 and states are reviewing rates. This decision will have serious consequences for millions of consumers who get their coverage through small businesses or buy coverage on their own. It will create more market uncertainty and increase premiums for many health plans – putting a heavier burden on small businesses and consumers, and reducing coverage options. And costs for taxpayers will rise as the federal government spends more on premium subsidies.

After all, suspending the Risk Adjustment program means insurers who cover sicker enrollees are missing out on billions of dollars they are owed under the law, and if the fund transfers aren’t restored, it’s likely consumers who will pay the price.

Risk adjustment programs—which enjoy bipartisan support in programs like Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage—exist in order to maintain a functioning health insurance market in which insurers cannot discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. The ACA’s Risk Adjustment program requires insurance companies that enroll relatively healthier populations to transfer funds to companies who enrolled older, sicker, and higher-risk enrollees, creating a disincentive for insurers to game the system (to the extent they can under the ACA) in an effort to avoid covering high risk patients.

The administration cites a months-old U.S. District Court decision for its announcement, but legal analysts have already poked holes in the government’s case. University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley writes:

CMS says that the ruling “prevents [the agency] from making further collections or payments under the risk adjustment program, including amounts for the 2017 benefit year, until the litigation is resolved.” That’s wrong. The truth is that the Trump administration has lots of options. It’s just choosing not to exercise them.

Like in other issue arenas, the Trump administration has manufactured a crisis that will harm North Carolinians, and in a continued demonstration of bad faith, it’s refusing to govern effectively.

News, public health

North Carolina advocates, health care leaders press again for Medicaid expansion

N.C. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen speaks on Medicaid expansion Tuesday in Raleigh (Photo taken by Phyllis Nunn).

Roughly five years after North Carolina lawmakers dismissed calls to join a federally-backed program that would have extended health care access to an estimated 500,000 low-income residents, advocates are making their case to take up the program again with the N.C. General Assembly.

“All of that uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is past us,” N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen told supporters Tuesday, as they prepared to converge on the state legislature to press for Medicaid expansion.

“In fact, we’ve never seen more support from the Republican side of the aisle for the Medicaid program,” Cohen added.

Constitutional amendments are expected to dominate the legislative discourse during the final days of the short session, but Tuesday’s advocacy day centered on North Carolina’s myriad health care woes, and Republican legislators’ refusal to opt into the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

GOP critics worry the expansion, which would require the state to foot the bill for 10 percent of costs, comes laden with unpredictability, despite arguments to the contrary.

Indeed, a report this year from a Wake Forest University law professor and health care expert detailed emerging evidence that costs in the 34 states that bought into Medicaid expansion have not been so erratic after all.

Backers like Cohen—an ex-federal government healthcare administrator under former President Obama who was named to the state DHHS post last year by Gov. Roy Cooper—rebuffed GOP arguments again Tuesday.

“In North Carolina, (Medicaid) has been under budget for seven years now,” said Cohen. “No one can say ‘the program’s out of control, there’s no predictability in their budget.’ Nope.”

Cohen said Tuesday that Medicaid expansion would help to close the gap for poor North Carolinians who make too much to qualify for the government health insurance program.

Cohen also estimated that the program would create more than 40,000 new jobs in the state and generate billions of dollars in new economic activity.

She pointed to other Republican-led states like Indiana, Ohio and Michigan that saw similar results after agreeing to expand Medicaid.

“This does not have to be a political issue,” Cohen said. “This is just about common sense and being pragmatic.”

Tuesday’s advocacy day was also expected to include meetings with state lawmakers, an afternoon press conference and more. It was organized by a coalition of health care advocacy nonprofits, including the progressive N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project. [Disclosure: The Justice Center is the parent nonprofit for Policy Watch.]

Meanwhile, Cohen huddled Tuesday with two North Carolinians who say the state’s refusal to expand the health care program cut them off from vital care and medicine.

N.C. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen (right) speaks to Burlington resident Marta Concepcion Tuesday about Medicaid expansion. (Photo taken by Billy Ball)

“It’s just really hard that I have to be in pain and I can’t get no help,” said Marta Concepcion, a Burlington resident who said she lost her government health care assistance when she moved from New York to North Carolina in recent years.

Concepcion said she’s been diagnosed with a heart condition, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, depression and bipolar disorder, but she can’t afford medication or regular visits with a doctor.

Concepcion tearfully recalled one recent doctor’s visit where she was told that she needed a more thorough examination by medical professionals.

“She goes to me, ‘you need to get checked, because we see something wrong with you, but it’s going to cost $100.’ Well, lady, you might as well say that I came here to die, because I don’t have that money.”

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