Monthly Archives: May 2012
PA Schools Plan to Reduce or Eliminate Art, Music, Kindergarten, Summer School & Tutoring to Face Funding Cuts
|May 30, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Budget, Education||
Data from a spring 2012 survey of school districts across the Commonwealth indicate increased class sizes, the possible elimination of art, music and gym classes as well as field trips, and deep cuts to tutoring programs and summer school as the result of an $810 million reduction in state funding. Reductions in local funds coupled with these cuts at the state level and increased health care and retirement costs have already resulted in staff and teacher wage freezes and furloughs in many districts, but now educational programming is on the chopping block.
The assessment, conducted the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) notes that 19 percent of the responding districts plan to reduce or end early childhood education programming, including Kindergarten. This is disturbing news as not only does early childhood education result in improved educational outcomes and is linked to future employability and wage earning potential; it is also an industry that employs tens of thousands of people per state and generates impressive gross revenue figures.
Governor Corbett has suggested that districts use their reserves to avoid cutting programs or academic subjects in the upcoming year. No word on how that tactic ensures that those same cuts will be not made once the “emergency” reserves (already being used by some districts) are gone.
|May 21, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Behavorial Health, Drug and Alcohol, Health||
Price increases, not increased utilization, are a primary factor behind higher health care costs according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) an independent, nonprofit organization formed in 2011 as a clearinghouse of sorts for data related to health care costs and utilization in the United States.
The paper, Health Care Cost and Utilization Report: 2010, presents trends in health care cost and utilization for persons younger than 65 covered by an employer sponsored, private insurance plan during 2009 and 2010. Findings include,
- Out-of-pocket spending by plan beneficiaries rose by just over 7 percent in 2010 for all service categories, ranging from a 3 percent increase for prescription drugs to a 10 percent increase for outpatient services.
- The average price for a visit to the emergency room rose 11.0 percent between 2009 and 2010 – from $1,195 to $1,327.
- Between 2009 and 2010, prices increased for nearly all inpatient, outpatient and specialty visits, admissions and procedures, including – mental health and substance abuse inpatient admission (8.6 percent), outpatient surgery (8.9 percent) and an office visit to a primary care provider (5.3 percent). The average price of an admission to a skilled nursing facility declined by 3.2 percent during the same time period.
- Utilization rates decreased for inpatient admissions (medical 5.2 percent, surgical 4.9 percent), emergency room visits (5.3 percent), and primary care provider office visits (5.2 percent).
- Utilization rates increased for mental health and substance abuse inpatient admissions (5.0 percent), skilled nursing facility admissions (7.2 percent), and outpatient observation (5.3 percent).
Overall, the data indicate that utilization rates decreased while prices increased. The paper also calls for a closer examination of variations in hospitals costs, including the possibility of cost shifting; and why mental health and substance abuse services increased more than other areas of healthcare in inpatient utilization, average lengths of stay and cost between 2009-2010. I’ll be keeping an eye on future analysis from HCCI, after all, more and better information on healthcare utilization and pricing might bring a bit of transparency to the debate on what is driving the ever-growing cost of healthcare.