Proactive…blaming Climate Change on Healthcare costs

It’s really nothing new; the study of Climate Change and its effects on human health dates back to the 70’s. Ironically, these are the exact same studies cited in the new White House/HHS task force (formally named the IWGCCH) uses to justify their latest project. On Wednesday April 21, 2010 the White House issued the following via Health and Human Services:

“A report released by a federal working group highlights 11 key categories of diseases and other health consequences that are occurring or will occur due to climate change” (click image for full report)

Click Image for Full Report (pdf)

In an attempt to finally set the stage to tie the most extreme health related conditions to rising health care costs, the administration has rounded up all the kids you use to beat-up during recess to set this into stone.

Junk Science

One of the key issues addressed in this report is “Heat Related Morbidity and Mortality” (pg 29) In the summary they address that death rates amongst the elderly are dramatically higher during heat waves. (obvious) They fear that an increases in Global Temps will trigger additional deaths. They are, in fact, correct. However, one of their sources for that claim comes from the Journal of American Medical Association’s 1982 case control study “Kilbourne, E.M., et al., Risk factors for heatstroke”.

The most recent studies supporting the need to study this claim comes from the mid 90’s; The first a 15 year study starting in 1980 (Piver, W.T., et al., Temperature and air pollution as risk factors for heat stroke in Tokyo, July and August 1980-1995), and the other from 1994 (Wainwright, S., S. Buchanan, and H. Mainzer, Cardiovascular Mortality – the Hidden Peril of Heat Waves). So what is the strongest weapon to fight heat stroke? Air Conditioning!

Upon initial glance the layman would qualify this as a true peril. However, we need some context and statistical studies to easily put the previously worried parties at ease. In Alan Reynolds’ Income and Wealth we learn that as recent as 2001 75% of households below the poverty line were equipped with air conditioners. Compare that to 1971 when only one third of all American households had the privilege of creating their own climate change. In the 70’s heat wave related deaths amongst the elderly was higher than it is today. To further prove how effective air conditioning is think about the “cooling centers” opened during heat waves and the government’s efforts to alert the elderly as to where to find them.

(Side note: the entire commission and report is citing studies that are 4 decades old to address the 11 named issues-this is just one example)

Take my breath away (in Situ“)

Another area of concern for is Asthma. As the report states:

Climate change will likely amplify existing environmental stimulation of asthma

Along with asthma other respiratory allergies and diseases could be greatly affected and create an “increase in the overall burden of these conditions”

The report states that the first of the research needs in this field are:

Developing and validating real-time remote sensing and other in situ monitoring techniques to evaluate air quality, aeroallergens, etc.

The term “in situ” in Latin translates to “in the place”. Are these remote monitoring techniques done from a patient’s home or are these techniques used in cooperation with technology within a medical facility? The report does not clarify this. Nor does it explain the devices and/or measures that will need to be implemented to get an accurate reading on data. However, if additional equipment and technology is needed then that will carry a cost. The report does not even begin to address this new possible cost or where and how this study will be conducted.

This study is full of either problems that have already been solved in the past 4 decades or addressing new ones with no real plan of action. If you enjoy researching the ridiculous this commission and supporting report should cater to your interests perfectly. Its the old wooden roller-coaster in the theme park; sure it doesnt do loops and cork screws but it is a piece of entertainment built with precision and achieves a precocious charm using dated materials.

The bottom line is that this commission carries a price tag; so do their findings and soon to be proposed solutions. These costs will either show up on the federals books or in your health care premiums. In essence another arm of the great bureaucracy is created to help justify the rising cost of health care.