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Most expensive health conditions in the US

Staying in a hospital bed can be costly.

Robert Ray/AP

  • Hospital stays are expensive — adding up to more than $381 billion a year in the US, according to recent data.
  • The average hospital stay costs over $10,000, but the amount varies widely depending on the medical condition.
  • The top 20 most expensive conditions account for nearly half of all hospital costs in the US.

Any hospital visit can be scary — and frighteningly expensive.

The average hospital stay in the US costs just over $10,700, based on an analysis of recent data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

Using the 2013 National Impatient Survey, HCUP found the hospital visits and costs associated with different medical conditions classified by the Clinical Classifications Software principal diagnosis category. In total, there were 35.6 million hospital stays with an aggregate cost of $381.4 billion.

Routine childbirth accounted for the most stays — nearly 3.8 million — but is a relatively low-cost hospital trip compared to other conditions. Of all hospital stays billed to Medicaid, 23.1% fell in this category.

The 20 most expensive conditions accounted for nearly half of all hospital costs in the US. Septicemia — also called sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection — created the greatest total cost at $27 billion. But, because of the large number of patients treated for the condition, it did not have the highest average cost per treatment. Heart and lung conditions also show up frequently when looking at the most expensive illnesses.

Who paid the hospital bill tells a different story, and is an important piece of the national debate on health care. Medicare covered 46% of that cost, with Medicaid pitching in 17%. Private insurance paid for 28% of the cost, while 5% went to patients who were uninsured.

In addition to what patients are going to the hospital for, where they are can also affect costs. A trip to the hospital in the US can vary a great deal based on where you live.

We went through the 20 conditions with the highest total hospital cost and found the average cost per hospital stay based on how many visits were made for each condition.


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