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Uninsured Hospital Stays Surged from 2003 to 2008

AHRQ News and Numbers, April 7, 2011

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

Hospital stays for uninsured patients jumped 21 percent between 2003 and 2008, after holding fairly steady during the previous 5 years, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). By comparison, all hospital stays grew only 4 percent between 2003 and 2008, and 10 percent during the previous 5 years.

The Federal agency found that there were 2.1 million uninsured admissions in 2008, compared to 1.8 million in both 2003 and 1998. The average cost of a 2008 uninsured hospital stay was $7,300.

AHRQ also found that:

  • Public hospitals saw the greatest share of uninsured stays (8.3 percent) in 2008, compared to stays in private, for-profit hospitals, (5.5 percent) and private, not-for-profit hospitals (4.7 percent).
  • Hospitals in the South had more than twice the percentage of uninsured stays (7.6 percent) than those in the Northeast (3.2 percent) in 2008. Uninsured patients made up 4.9 percent and 3.6 percent of stays in the Midwest and West, respectively.
  • Between 2003 and 2008, the number of uninsured hospital stays increased by 55 percent for skin infections, 43 percent for gall bladder disease, 40 percent for diabetes complications, 35 percent for alcohol-related disorders, and 20 percent for heart attacks.

This AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Uninsured Hospital Stays, 2008. 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 95 percent of all discharges in the United States and include 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 April 2011
Internet Citation: Uninsured Hospital Stays Surged from 2003 to 2008: AHRQ News and Numbers, April 7, 2011. April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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