AHRQ: Most expensive hospital stays reach $18k daily

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The most expensive patient stays at U.S. hospitals in 2008 averaged about $18,000 in hospital charges per day, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). These patients were most likely to be in the hospital for treatment of septicemia, hardening of the arteries and heart attacks.

According to AHRQ analysis, the average was based on the most expensive 5 percent of hospitalizations, including about two million patient stays. These stays lasted an average of 19 days.

In contrast, daily hospital bills for the remaining 95 percent of patient stays in 2008 averaged just under $7,000 and four days, and were most likely for childbirth, pneumonia or heart failure.

Compared to the less expensive stays, patients with the more expensive hospital stays also were:

  • More severely ill: about 10 times more likely to experience extreme loss of function (39 percent vs. 4 percent).
  • At greater risk of dying in the hospital: nine times more likely to be in the highest category for risk of death in the hospital (28 percent vs. 3 percent).
  • Older: average age of 59, compared with 48 years.

The AHRQ News and Numbers is based on data in Most Expensive Hospitalizations, 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 90 percent of all discharges in the U.S. and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.