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Hospitalizations in 2011

By March 26, 2014Commentary

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides an ongoing series of useful Statistical Briefs.  A recent one looks at hospital use data for 2011 and trends in the data since 1997.  (Stat. Brief)   For purposes of this Brief, costs refer to hospital’s supposed costs for delivering services during a stay–the methodology may not be very accurate; and charges refers to what the hospital bills for the stay, which likely does not reflect what it was paid.  There were 38.6 million hospital stays in 2011, an increase of 11% since 1997, but the rate per 10,000 people has stayed stable at around 1240 to 1270.  This despite the aging of the population.  Average length of stay has dropped only slightly during this time, from 4.8 days in 1997 to 4.6 in 2011.  The mean cost per stay rose from $6,800 in 1997 to $10,000 in 2011, in inflation adjusted dollars, so real growth of 47% to a total of $386 billion.  Mean charges per stay during the same period increased from $15,100 to $35,400, more than a doubling.  The total charges for 2011 were about $1.36 trillion dollars.  Across the period the percent of stays in metro hospitals was stable in the mid 80s; teaching hospitals accounted for about half of the stays and private non-for-profit institutions were around 73% of stays.  As would be expected, Medicare and Medicaid are paying for an ever-increasing share of stays.  In 2011, 60% of stays were paid for by these two government programs up from 52% in 1997.  The percent of stays represented by uninsured people was stable, at around 5%.  As also would expected the rate of stays per 10,000 people grows with age.  Women account for about 58% of stays.  Lower income people have higher stay rates than do high income ones.  The highest rates are for people living in rural areas, who may not have good access to other sites of care, followed by large metropolitan areas, with medium and small cities having the lowest rate.  The Northeast has the highest rate among regions while the west has the lowest, about 25% below that of the Northeast.  The most remarkable feature of the report is the relative stability in stay rates and where the stays occur.

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