California Prison Medical Costs Higher Than Average

By KQED Staff and Wires

California spends three times the national average on inmate medical care. (Getty Images)

As the state prepares to resume control of inmate medical care, it must find ways to reduce costs that are triple the national average, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said Thursday.

The federal receivership that has been in place since 2006 has greatly improved the medical care of state prison inmates but also has caused costs to soar, according to the report. California spends $16,000 per inmate for health care services, compared to an average of $5,000 in other states.

The analysis was released less than two weeks before the state and attorneys representing inmates must report to a federal judge with recommendations on when the receivership should end and whether it should maintain some oversight role.

The Legislature should create an independent board to monitor prison medical care to make sure conditions do not deteriorate once the state retakes control, the report said. It also recommends that the state experiment with contracting for medical services to cut costs. Continue reading

Report: Fewer Unhealthy Air Days in California

By Bernice Yeung, California Watch

California logged fewer unhealthy air days in 2011 than a decade ago, giving hope that air quality is improving. (Getty Images)

California air pollution reached unhealthy levels less often in 2011 than a decade ago, according to a report released this week by a state association of regional air district officers.

Compared with 2000, there were about 74 percent fewer days of “unhealthy air” statewide last year, data from the report [PDF] showed. Air quality can range from “good” to “very unhealthy,” and it is calculated based on local monitoring of four air pollutants regulated by the federal Clean Air Act.

The report found that ozone pollution has decreased statewide between 1980 and 2011; there have been smaller and more limited reductions in particulate matter emissions during the same time frame.

Dr. John Balmes, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, said California is “ahead of the pack with regard to air quality and greenhouse gas control.” He said any reductions in ozone and particulate emissions could have positive effects on public health because these pollutants have been associated with cardiovascular or respiratory disease health risks.

The new report acknowledged that “despite significant improvements, air quality remains a major source of public health concern in large metropolitan areas throughout California,” especially in the San Joaquin Valley and the southern coast area surrounding Los Angeles. California has 35 regional air districts, which regulate businesses and industrial facilities. Continue reading

What Impact Will the Court’s Decision Have on California?

(Ronnie Pitman: Flickr)

Over the last year as the myriad court cases about the federal health care law have made their way to the highest court in the land, California has spent that time moving ahead aggressively in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). California was the first state to pass legislation to set up a health insurance exchange. The state also set up a new high risk pool so people with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance.

But what happens if the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional? Or overturns the entire law? What can still go forward in California?

The answer depends in part upon whom you ask. But for the most part California — like all states — will find it tough to move forward without the backing of the federal law. Continue reading