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Study finds dirty air in California causes millions worth of medical care each year
Date:3/2/2010

California's dirty air caused more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007 as people sought help for problems such as asthma and pneumonia that are triggered by elevated pollution levels, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

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 respirat
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Contact: Warren Robak
robak@rand.org
310-451-6913
RAND Corporation
Source:Eurekalert

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