Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending
Excessive levels of ozone and other air pollutants are costly in many ways, not just to human health. Beyond the direct health care costs resulting from complications, air pollution also imposes substantial burden on public and private health insurers.
A 2010 RAND Corporation study, “The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending,” attempts to quantify the cost of pollution-related medical care attributed to the failure of meeting federal clean air standards across California. To do so, the researchers used records from air pollution agencies and hospitals from 2005 to 2007.
The paper’s key findings include:
- Between 2005 and 2007, nearly 30,000 hospital admissions and emergency-room visits could have been avoided throughout California if federal clean-air standards had been met.
- These cases led to higher hospital care cost of approximately $193 million. Medicare and Medicaid spent about $132 million on such hospital care while the rest was incurred by private third-party purchasers.
- Five case studies of individual hospitals in Riverside, Fresno, Lynwood, Stanford and Sacramento show that the costs incurred by the different types of payers vary by region.
Improving air quality would lower pollution-related health spending. This could potentially translate to lower insurance premiums for consumers, as well as to higher profits for insurers.
Tags: cars, California, pollution, medicine
Read the study-related New York Times article titled "Health Costs of California Air Pollution."
- Reporter's use of the study: Evaluate what the reporter chose to include and exclude from the study. Would the audience have acquired a clear understanding of the study's findings and limits from this article?
- Reporter's use of other material: Assess the material in the article that is not derived from the study. (for example: Does the reporter place the study in the context of other research and to what effect? Does the reporter include reactions to the study from other researchers or interested parties [e.g., political groups business leaders, or community members] and are their credentials or possible biases made clear?)
Read the full RAND Corporation study titled "The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.