Inpatient deaths cost nearly $20 billion; septicemia leading cause

One of every three people who died in the U.S. in 2007 was in the hospital for treatment at the time of death.


One of every three people who died in the U.S. in 2007 was in the hospital for treatment at the time of death, accumulating $20 billion in costs, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently reported. The leading principal diagnosis was septicemia (see Table).

The AHRQ's analysis of 765,651 hospital patient deaths in 2007 found that the average cost of hospital stays in which patients died was $26,035, versus an average of $9,447 for patients who were discharged alive (2.8 times higher). Costs were higher for patients who died because their hospitals stays were longer than those who lived (8.8 days vs. 4.5 days).

The average cost for each Medicaid patient who died was about $39,000—roughly $15,000 (5.6%) more than the average cost of a Medicare or uninsured patient who died, and about $10,000 more than a privately insured patient who died.

The report uses statistics from the 2007 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that represents all short-term, non-federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that make up 90% of all discharges in the U.S. and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.