Researchers estimate 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, according to the report.
"California's failure to meet air pollution standards causes a large amount of expensive hospital care," said John Romley, lead author of the study and an economist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "The result is that insurance programs -- both those run by the government and private payers -- face higher costs because of California's dirty air."
While much work has been done previously to catalog the economic impact of air pollution across California, the RAND study is the first to quantify the cost of hospital-based medical care to various payers caused by the failure to meet federal clean air standards across the state. 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.
Researchers used records from air pollution agencies and hospitals to estimate how failing to meet federal and state standards for particulate matter and ozone would affect private and public insurer spending for hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and emergency room visits for asthma throughout California from 2005-2007.
Researchers say the most common hospital-based medical care triggered by elevated air pollution levels are emergency room visits for asthma among children aged 17 and under, with more than 12,000 visits over the three-year study period.
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 health events examined in the study were concentrated in the San Joaquin Valley and the four-county South Coast Air Basin.
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.
Researchers say their study provides a conservative estimate about the costs of medical care triggered by air pollution because it does not include outpatient care provided in clinics or medical offices. Details about that type of medical care are not routinely reported to state agencies and thus could not be analyzed.
The study also includes case studies of individual hospitals in Fresno, Lynwood, Palo Alto, Riverside and Sacramento. That analysis demonstrates that costs and types of illness reported vary by region.
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.
The study, "The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending," is available at www.rand.org. Support for the study was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Other authors of the study are Andrew Hackbarth of the Pardee RAND Graduate School and Dana Goldman of RAND and USC.
RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation's largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on quality, costs and health services delivery, among other topics. RAND Health is the developer of COMPARE (Comprehensive Assessment of Reform Efforts), a one-of-a-kind online resource that provides objective analysis about national health care reform proposals. Visit www.randcompare.org to learn more.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. To sign up for RAND e-mail alerts: http://www.rand.org/publications/email.html
Warren Robak | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences