Growth in Medicaid patient hospital admissions outpace those for privately insured patients

Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367

Hospital admissions of patients covered by Medicaid jumped by 30 percent between 1997 and 2008 compared with a 5 percent rise in admissions by patients with private health insurance, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Growth in uninsured patient admissions also outstripped privately insured ones, rising by 27 percent. AHRQ found that the number of Medicaid-covered patient hospitalizations climbed from 5.6 million to 7.4 million, compared with an increase of 13.4 million to 14.1 million for privately insured stays and 1.7 million to 2.1 million for the uninsured.

The Agency also found that:

  • Over the period, a hospital's average cost for a Medicaid patient stay rose 11 percent, far less than the 34 percent cost increase for privately insured stays and the 26 percent for uninsured patients, adjusted for inflation.
  • In 2008, the average Medicaid patient stay cost a hospital $6,900 and about the same for an uninsured patient, compared with $8,400 for a patient stay covered by private insurance, adjusted for inflation.
  • Altogether, Medicaid patient stays cost hospitals about $51 billion compared with $117 billion for privately insured ones and $16 billion for uninsured stays in 2008, adjusted for inflation.
  • Medicaid was the primary payer for more than 18 percent of the nearly 40 million hospital stays that year—almost 1 of every 5.
  • Maternity-related and newborn infant care accounted for half of all Medicaid hospital stays, compared with one-third of privately insured patient stays, and one-fifth of uninsured stays.
  • About 6 percent of Medicaid stays were for mental health and substance abuse conditions compared with 4 percent among the privately insured and 10 percent among the uninsured.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Medicaid Hospitalizations, 2008 ( The report uses data from the 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays in all short-term, nonfederal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 95 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 or (301) 427-1539.

Current as of March 2011
Internet Citation: Growth in Medicaid patient hospital admissions outpace those for privately insured patients: Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367. March 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.