The hospital can be a scary place for a new reason: money. It depends on the condition, but the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) says the average hospital stay costs Americans more than $10,000. Some common conditions are so costly, it’s easy to see how hospital stays reached a mind-boggling $384.5 billion annually.
By comparing the highest total hospital costs with the average cost per hospital stay, we found the 15 most expensive reasons people go to the hospital. Fair warning: The priciest condition is outrageously common (page 9).
- Annual hospital costs (in millions): $9.501
- Average cost per stay: $9,793
Pneumonia is a lung condition spurred by an infectious inflammation of the air sacs. It’s one of America’s biggest hospital bills, fueled undoubtedly by the fact that pneumonia is also sometimes acquired during a hospital stay for another illness.
Next: It’s cheaper to eat healthy and exercise.
2. Congestive heart failure
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $10.218
- Average cost per stay: $11,500
Congestive heart failure is described as the heart’s inability to pump an adequate amount of blood through the body. Treatment for heart failure can range from manageable lifestyle modifications to pricey heart transplants. Should you require a hospital stay for treatment, prepare for an outrageous medical bill to follow.
Next: Hospitals “bend over backwards” for patients with this issue.
3. Back problems
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $10.198
- Average cost per stay: $18,978
Spondylosis refers to any degeneration of the spine or a breakdown of the discs in between the bones of the spine. Incur one of these painful conditions, and you’ll face one of the biggest hospital bills in America.
Next: The cost of this disease will give you a heart attack.
4. Heart attacks
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $12.092
- Average cost per stay: $20,246
Acute myocardial infarction is the medical name for a heart attack. About 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year, with a sizable chunk of those instances being a person’s second or third attack. Hospital stays for this condition accounted for 1.8% of all stays according to HCUP data, resulting in a staggering $12 billion annual bill.
Next: A joyous but costly occasion for families
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $13.287
- Average cost per stay: $3,600
Childbirth is the most common reason for a hospital visit, but it’s also one of America’s biggest hospital bills. It costs an average of $3,600 per person to have a baby and hospitals a hefty $13.2 billion per year — though it’s likely newborns are one joyful expense most people wouldn’t stress over funding in the grand scheme of things.
Next: Foreign objects complicate things.
6. Complications from a device, implant, or graft
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $12.431
- Average cost per stay: $20,175
Complications — whether infections or bleeding — from corrective devices, implants, and grafts placed in the body result in one sizable hospital bill. It’s also quite common. Patients who visit a hospital with this expensive health issue can expect a bill of more than $20,000. Hospitals spend about $12.4 billion to treat the same condition.
Next: About 27 million Americans pay for this disease.
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $16.520
- Average cost per stay: $15,897
Osteoarthritis — otherwise known as a degenerative joint disease — is the wearing down of tissue between joints. It’s the most common form of arthritis, affecting about 27 million Americans.
Next: This is why you sign all those medical forms.
8. Surgical or medical care complications
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $6.079
- Average cost per stay: $13,565
Countless patients go under the knife at any given minute in the United States. However, most people are alarmed to discover just how common surgical complications or health problems relating to the procedure actually are. Surgical repercussions cost hospitals more than $6 billion per year and account for 1.3% of all hospital stays.
Next: The most expensive reason Americans go to the hospital
9. Heart valve disorders
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $5.151
- Average cost per stay: $42,647
A catch-all term, “heart valve disorders” describes illnesses stemming from issues with any of the four heart valves that control blood flow. The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data ranks heart valve disorders as a top 20 hospital expense, but individually it’s the most expensive hospital procedure due to its abnormally high average cost per stay.
Next: The most expensive condition for the hospital itself
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $23.663
- Average cost per stay: $18,031
Many people don’t know sepsis, a deadly complication of septicemia, is responsible for 3.6% of all hospital stays and affects more than 1 million people each year. Many people refer to septicemia as blood poisoning; regardless it’s a serious bloodstream infection spurred by a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body. And it results in the biggest hospital cost: a whopping $23.6 billion annually.
Next: You likely know someone who’s died from this disease.
11. Acute cerebrovascular disease
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $8.840
- Average cost per stay: $15,378
Cerebrovascular disease impacts blood flow in the brain and often results in strokes and aneurysms — both spark additional treatments setting patients back about $15,000 dollars per stay. This disease is the fifth most common cause of death; all the more reason to get healthy now to avoid paying for it later.
Next: Many expensive conditions come from a broken heart.
12. Cardiac dysrhythmias
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $7.178
- Average cost per stay: $10,191
Roughly 2.2 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, one common type of arrhythmia. These cases where your heart rate is abnormal — either irregular, too fast, or too slow — can morph into a costly hospital bill. The average cost per stay is well over $10,000 when considering the total annual cost to hospitals and the number of patient stays recorded in a given year.
Next: You may be tempted to skip this treatment.
13. Rehabilitation, prostheses, and device adjustments
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $5.373
- Average cost per stay: $13,877
Healthcare.gov defines rehabilitation as “services that help you keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that has been lost or impaired because you were sick, hurt, or disabled.” Obviously rehab is important — don’t skip it.
Three hundred to 500 amputations are performed daily, making it a common procedure. Unfortunately, those visiting the hospital for this service will also get slapped with a devastatingly high hospital bill upon leaving.
Next: America’s No. 1 cause of death
14. Coronary atherosclerosis
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $9.003
- Average cost per stay: $20,936
By now it should come as no surprise the bill for any heart condition is astronomical. Coronary atherosclerosis is no different. When atherosclerosis affects blood flow to the heart muscle, it’s called coronary artery disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans. Hospitals spend more than $9 billion per year to save people affected by this expensive health problem.
Next: A hospital bill that reaches new heights
15. Respiratory failure, insufficiency, arrest (adult)
- Annual hospital costs (in billions): $7.077
- Average cost per stay: $17,868
Respiratory failure and insufficiency occurs when the lungs cannot produce enough oxygen or expel enough carbon dioxide. Respiratory arrest happens when breathing stops completely. Though the number of respiratory-related stays per year is less than most other scenarios on this list (387,000) a large chunk of these costly conditions is billed to Medicaid, according to HCUP data.
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