The quarterly measure of consumer confidence by the San José State Survey and Policy Research Institute finds Californians increasingly pessimistic about the state of the economy and about their future economic prospects. The consumer sentiment index fell in June to 87.1, which is down nearly three points from the last measurement in March. The survey also found that 49% of Californians expect their family income to rise in the next year. 34% of Californians expect the country to experience continuous economic good times in the coming five years.
California’s highways rank dead last among the 50th states in terms of urban congestion, according to a new survey of state highway systems by the Reason Foundation. The survey reports that 83.3% of California’s urban interstates are habitually congested. The survey also ranked California near the bottom in several other measures of highway performance and cost effectiveness, including urban and rural interestate condition and maintenance per mile of state responsibility.
Four of the nation’s 15 most populous cities are in California, according to new figures released by the US Census Bureau. The four California cities in the top 25 are Los Angeles (number 2), San Diego (number 8 ), San Jose (number 10) and San Francisco (number 14).
Additionally, nine California cities with populations over 100,000 are in the list of the top 25 fastest-growing cities. Those cities are Elk Grove, Irvine, Roseville, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Bakersfield, Chula Vista, and Visalia.
Overall, according to the Census figures, only two cities outside the West and South made the list of the top 25 fastest-growing cities with populations over 100,000: Joliet, IL (number 13) and Olathe, KS (number 21). The Census Bureau points out that of the ten most populous cities, five are in states that border Mexico. As a point of historical comparison, in 1910, all 10 of the most populous cities were within 500 miles of the Canadian border.
Key findings from a just-published California HealthCare Foundation report on the affordability of health insurance in California:
- A single person with median income will spend 16% of his or her income if purchasing an individual plan rather than getting insurance through the small group market (“small group plans” are defined as those taken out by employers with 3 to 50 employees).
- If a person is getting health insurance through an individual plan, he or she will pay nearly three times as much in out-of-pocket expenses as someone who is on a small group plan.
- Out-of-pocket expenses for people with chronic conditions were up to over 3 times higher for people on individual plans versus those on small group plans.
The report concludes that “trends in premiums and covered benefits, as compared to wages and income, suggest that affordability is a real and growing concern for many insured Californians.”
A new Brookings Institution report zeroes in on a national trend: suburbs across the country are growing older even as areas closer to the centers of metropolitan regions stay the same age or gain younger residents, which is a reversal of the post-World War II trend that gave suburbs the image of being the places where younger people and growing families flocked and stay put.
The people who are staying put in suburbs these days, and into the foreseeable future, are baby boomers, who predominantly grew up there originally and either stay put or are returning to where they grew up. California is not as starkly indicative of this trend as the Sun Belt and other parts of the country, but the trend is still there.
According to a new Pacific Research Institute report, California ranks 18 out of 50 on a list of rankings of states in terms of “health ownership,” which the Institute takes to mean the extent to which “individuals ‘own’ the health care in their states” (in a way that is not “grossly overregulated,” either in the arena of government health plans, private insurance, medical tort law, or the provision of medical services generally).
California ranks third on the PRI’s list of “medical tort category results,” laregly because it limits attorneys’ fees and achieves a “relatively small loss ratio.” However, California ranks only 35th on the Institute’s “provider burden of regulation category results,” which measure the degree to which health practitioners are able to compete.
US Index of Health Ownership [Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy]
A recent California HealthCare Foundation report takes a closer look at Medi-Cal program, which accounts for the second-largest share of the state’s general fund (17%) after K-12 education. Although enrollment in Medi-Cal has leveled off since 2002-2003, California ranks second among the ten most populous states in percent of population enrolled (16%). A clear majority of the enrollees are Latino (53%), and a near-majority are children (46%). Medi-Cal provides health insurance coverage to 27% of the state’s children; 32% of the state’s 763,000 uninsured children are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage but are not enrolled.
Physician participation in Medi-Cal is abysmal, with 46 primary care providers for every 100,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries, well below the federal standard of 60-80 per 100,000. Medi-Cal pays physicians 59% of Medicare rates for the same service, a figure well below the national average of 63%. Over the past decade, Medi-Cal expenditures have nearly doubled, with an average annual increase of 7%.
Medi-Cal Facts and Figures: A Look at California’s Medicare Program (California HealthCare Foundation)
According to the most recent Public Policy Institute of California survey of Californians’ mood about the state of the state, 64% of likely voters support the governor’s proposal to issue $43 billion more in bonds for education facilities, prisons, water storage, and other infrastructure projects. This may be partly, the survey report suggests, because 52% of likely voters admit in response to another survey question set that they know either “very little” or “nothing” about how the bond process works. On the plus side, 83% think that there should be a public information system that tracks how bond money is being spent.
On another topic, the percentage of voters who describe the state budget as a big problem has fallen from 73% in May 2004 to 44%. Again, the PPIC survey suggests that voters may be looking on the bright side because only 32% know that most of the state budget is already spoken for by K-12 education expenses and only 37% know that personal income tax is the biggest source of state revenue.
Likely voters also think that prison overcowding in California is a big problem (72%) and that immigration is the most important issue facing the state (23%, the highest ranking on a list of about a dozen other problems that voters were asked about).
Californians and Their Government, May 2007 [Public Policy Institute of California]