Hospital charges for 1 in 20 hospital stays average $18,000 a day

Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364

Hospital charges for the most expensive patient stays at U.S. hospitals in 2008 averaged about $18,000 per day, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). These patients were most likely to be in the hospital for treatment of septicemia (blood infection), hardening of the arteries, and heart attacks.

According to AHRQ's analysis, the average was based on the top 5 percent most expensive hospitalizations, or about 2 million patient stays. These stays lasted an average of 19 days. In contrast, daily hospital bills for the remaining 95 percent of patient stays in 2008 averaged just under $7,000 and 4 days, and were most likely for childbirth, pneumonia, and heart failure.

Compared with the less expensive stays, patients with more expensive hospital stays also were:

  • More severely ill—about 10 times more likely to experience extreme loss of function (39 percent vs. 4 percent).
  • At greater risk of dying in the hospital—nine times more likely to be in the highest category for risk of death in the hospital (28 percent vs. 3 percent).
  • Older—average age of 59 vs. 48 years.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Most Expensive Hospitalizations, 2008 (http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb97.jsp). The report uses data from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

For more information, contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov (301-427-1539).

Current as of December 2010
Internet Citation: Hospital charges for 1 in 20 hospital stays average $18,000 a day: Research Activities, December 2010, No. 364. December 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec10/1210RA24.html