A hospital stay for an insured patient now costs more than a month's rent

Nurse wheeling elderly patient down hall in wheelchair

It now costs more for the average American to stay in the hospital than it is to pay rent--and that's for those fortunate enough to be insured.

The average hospital stay for an insured patient was $1,013 in 2013, up from about $740 in 2009, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers examined 7.3 million hospital claims from Aetna, UnitedHealth and Humana, the amount applied to deductibles climbed 86 percent between 2009 and 2013, while co-payments increased by more than a third.

The average American paid $934 in rent in 2013, meaning a hospital stay now costs about 8 percent more than that expenditure, the online publication Vox noted. The average deductible was just $303 a decade ago. Now it's $1,077, according to the article. 

“This means the 154 million Americans with private insurance coverage are more exposed than ever to high medical bills. And it explains why going to the hospital can even be costly for those with health insurance plans,” Vox concluded.

That has had some hospitals and healthcare systems engaging in fairly tough tactics to collect payments from insured patients, particularly before service is even rendered. Texas Health Resources, for example, records and studies customer service phone calls with patients to determine their ability to make upfront payments.

Some hospitals have even resorted to suing their patients, even if the sums they owe are nominal. Mosaic of Life Care in Missouri even formed a for-profit subsidiary specifically to take collections actions against their patients, up to and including garnisheeing their wages. Mosaic of Life Care recently relented on the practice for many of its low-income patients.

– read the JAMA Internal Medicine abstract
– check out the Vox article