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U.S. Hospital Deaths Cost $20 Billion in 2007: Report

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Hospitalized patients accounted for one of every three deaths in the United States in 2007, and the cost of their hospital stays was about $20 billion, according to a federal government study released Wednesday.

The average cost of hospital stays for patients who died was $26,035, compared with $9,447 for patients who lived. The average hospital stay was 8.8 days for patients who died and 4.5 days for those who lived, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings from the analysis of 765,651 hospital patient deaths in 2007:

Medicare patients accounted for 67 percent of in-hospital deaths and $12 billion in hospital costs; privately insured patients, 20 percent and $4 billion; Medicaid patients, 2 percent and $2.4 billion; and uninsured patients, 3 percent and $630 million.

The average cost for each Medicaid patient who died was $38,939 -- about $15,000 more than for a Medicare or uninsured patient and about $10,000 more than for a patient with private insurance.

Emergency admission patients accounted for 72 percent of patients who died, while 12 percent were admitted for an elective procedure. About 7 percent of patients were admitted for accidents or intentional injury and about 2 percent of patients were newborn infants.

Septicemia -- a life-threatening blood infection -- was the leading cause of death (15 percent), followed by respiratory failure (8 percent), stroke (6 percent), pneumonia (5 percent), heart attack (5 percent); and congestive heart failure (4 percent). Cancer, aspiration pneumonia and kidney failure were other leading causes of death.

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