Hospital charges for the uninsured have soared

Research Activities, May 2010, No. 357

The amount that hospitals charge the uninsured for inpatient care jumped 88 percent between 1998 and 2007, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The average charge for an uninsured hospital stay grew from $11,400 in 1998 to $21,400 in 2007 after adjusting for inflation. AHRQ's analysis also found that:

  • From 1998 to 2007, the number of uninsured hospital stays increased by 31 percent, which far exceeds the 13 percent overall increase in hospital stays during the period.
  • The percentage of uninsured hospital stays increased the most in the South, rising from 5.8 percent to 7.5 percent. In contrast, in the Midwest, the percentage of uninsured hospital stays declined from 4.7 percent to 4.0 percent.
  • The top reason that uninsured patients were hospitalized was for childbirth. In 2007, roughly a quarter of a million uninsured women gave birth in hospitals. This was followed by depression and bipolar disorder (94,300); chest pain with no observed cause (77,000); skin infections—which more than doubled from 31,000 to 73,300; and alcohol-related disorders (66,600).

These findings are based on data in Trends in Uninsured Hospital Stays, 1998-2007. The report uses statistics from the 2007 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of 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 all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured. You can view the report at www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb88.jsp.

Current as of May 2010
Internet Citation: Hospital charges for the uninsured have soared: Research Activities, May 2010, No. 357. May 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/may10/0510RA1.html