Hospital bills over $1M jump 700% in California

The number of hospital bills topping $1 million in Northern California has grown by 700 percent over the past decade, reports the Sacramento Bee.

According to data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), the state agency that oversees hospital finances in California, the number of $1 million-plus bills issued in Northern California rose from 430 in 2000 to nearly 3,000 in 2010, noted the Bee.

The trend has likely replicated itself elsewhere in the nation as care grows more complex and medical cost inflation continues to escalate.

In many of the cases, the Bee reported, patients spent long stretches in the hospital, either recovering from automobile accidents, organ transplants or premature births. However, the median number of days required to make a $1 million bill dipped from 103 in 2000 to 64 in 2010.

Altogether, the charges associated with bills more than $1 million reached $5.2 billion in 2010. That represented 7 percent of all hospital charges among hospitals in Northern California--stemming from two-tenths of one percent of all the region's hospital patients, the Bee reported.

Although negotiations with insurers and even patients will lower many of the bills dramatically, patients are often stuck with a large enough amount to be bankrupted by their share.

Meanwhile, the OSHPD reported that operating margins at California hospitals entered negative territory during 2011.

To learn more:
- read the Sacramento Bee article
- check out the Sacramento Bee graphic
- here's OSHPD operating margin data
- read the CDC report on the financial burden of healthcare (.pdf)

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