2010 March 4: AL Alabama: CA Dirty Air Boosts Hospitalizations
|Contributor: Alexa Jones
Last Update: 7:19 am
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — California’s dirty air cost more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007, as people sought help for conditions such as asthma and pneumonia that were triggered by elevated pollution levels.
Researchers at the RAND Corporation estimated that exposure to excessive levels of ozone and particulate pollution caused nearly 30,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions over the study period. Public insurance programs were responsible for most of the costs, with Medicare and Medi-Cal covering more than two-thirds of the expenses.
"California’s failure to meet air pollution standards causes a large amount of expensive hospital care," lead study author John Romley, an economist at RAND, was quoted as saying. "The result is that insurance programs — both those run by the government and private payers — face higher costs because of California’s dirty air."
More people in California live in areas that do not meet federal clean air standards than in any other state. Romley said the findings show that private insurers, employers and public insurance programs all have a financial stake in improving California’s air quality.
"These costs may not be the largest problem caused by dirty air, but our study provides more evidence about the impact that air pollution has on the state’s economy," Romley said.
The most costly conditions examined by researchers were hospital admissions triggered by air pollution for acute bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those conditions accounted for nearly one-third of the $193 million in health care spending documented over the study period.
Nearly three-quarters of the health events identified by researchers were triggered by high levels of fine particulate pollution — tiny pieces of soot that can lodge deep in lungs. The cost of treating health events caused by air pollution is equal to the expense of providing flu vaccines to 85 percent of California children under age 15, according to the report.
To conduct the study, researchers used epidemiological studies that link elevated pollution levels to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, and compared that information to pollution levels measured across the state from 2005 to 2007 by various public agencies. Researchers also reviewed detailed records hospitals report to the state about the patients they treat, the illnesses diagnosed and who pays for that care.
SOURCE: “The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending," RAND Corporation, www.rand.org., March 2, 2010