Uninsured Hospital Stays On the Rise

THURSDAY Feb. 19, 2009 -- Between 1997 and 2006, hospital admissions for uninsured Americans rose by 34 percent, from 1.7 million to 2.2 million stays, a new report finds.

The increase is more than double the 14 percent rise in overall hospital admissions during that same period, according to a just-released report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In the South and Northeast, uninsured hospital admissions increased by 39 percent and 26 percent, respectively, while they decreased by nearly 20 percent in the Midwest and remained stable in the West.

The report also said that the cost for treating uninsured patients increased 76 percent between 1997 and 2006, from $11,000 to $19,400 per patient, after adjusting for inflation. During that same time, there was a 69 percent increase in hospital charges overall.

Several conditions were major contributors to the significant increase in uninsured hospitalizations:

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

The report is based on the Trends in Uninsured Hospital Stays, 1997-2006 study, which uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians explains how uninsured patients can access medical care.

Posted: February 2009


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