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Hospital Admissions and Bills Rising for Uninsured Americans

AHRQ News and Numbers, February 15, 2009

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

Hospital admissions for the uninsured increased by a third between 1997 and 2006, rising from 1.7 million to 2.2 million stays, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The 34 percent increase is more than double the 14 percent rise in overall hospital admissions during the same period.

The proportion of uninsured hospital stays in the South and Northeast grew by 39 and 26 percent, respectively; decreased in the Midwest by nearly 20 percent; and remained stable in the West.

AHRQ also found that the bill for treating uninsured patients has increased by 76 percent from $11,000 to $19,400 per stay over the same period after adjusting for inflation compared to a 69 percent increase in hospital charges overall.

Several conditions fueled the significant increase in hospitalizations, including

  • Skin infections rose 167 percent, from 27,900 to 74,500 hospital stays per year.
  • Chest pain with no known cause increased 101 percent, from 39,300 to 79,200 hospital stays per year.
  • Diabetes with complications, such as poor foot or leg circulation, jumped 76 percent, from 31,000 to 52,000 hospital stays per year.
  • Depression and other mood disorders rose 41 percent, from 55,000 to 77,300 hospital stays per year.
  • Childbirth admission, the most common reason for hospitalization among the uninsured, increased 32 percent, from 190,700 to 251,800 hospital stays per year.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Trends in Uninsured Hospital Stays, 1997-2006. The report uses statistics from the 2006 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.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of February 2009
Internet Citation: Hospital Admissions and Bills Rising for Uninsured Americans: AHRQ News and Numbers, February 15, 2009. February 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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