The 20 most expensive health conditions in the US

  • Hospital stays are expensive — adding up to more than $381 billion a year in the US, according to recent data.
  • The average hospital stay costs over $10,000, but the amount varies widely depending on the medical condition.
  • The top 20 most expensive conditions account for nearly half of all hospital costs in the US.

Any hospital visit can be scary — and frighteningly expensive.

The average hospital stay in the US costs just over $10,700, based on an analysis of recent data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

Using the 2013 National Impatient Survey, HCUP found the hospital visits and costs associated with different medical conditions classified by the Clinical Classifications Software principal diagnosis category. In total, there were 35.6 million hospital stays with an aggregate cost of $381.4 billion.

Routine childbirth accounted for the most stays — nearly 3.8 million — but is a relatively low-cost hospital trip compared to other conditions. Of all hospital stays billed to Medicaid, 23.1% fell in this category.

The 20 most expensive conditions accounted for nearly half of all hospital costs in the US. Septicemia — also called sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection — created the greatest total cost at $27 billion. But, because of the large number of patients treated for the condition, it did not have the highest average cost per treatment. Heart and lung conditions also show up frequently when looking at the most expensive illnesses.

Who paid the hospital bill tells a different story, and is an important piece of the national debate on health care. Medicare covered 46% of that cost, with Medicaid pitching in 17%. Private insurance paid for 28% of the cost, while 5% went to patients who were uninsured.

In addition to what patients are going to the hospital for, where they are can also affect costs. A trip to the hospital in the US can vary a great deal based on where you live.

We went through the 20 conditions with the highest total hospital cost and found the average cost per hospital stay based on how many visits were made for each condition.

The costliest health conditions in the US
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The costliest health conditions in the US

20. Liveborn

Liveborn is how childbirth and postnatal hospital care is clinically classified.

Average cost per stay: $3,529

Percent of all US hospital stays: 10.6% 

Photo credit: Getty

19. Mood disorders

Mood disorders are a category of mental illnesses that include bipolar disorder, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Average cost per stay: $6,275

Percent of all US hospital stays: 2.3% 

Photo credit: Getty

18. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis

COPD and bronchiectasis are separate conditions, but both lung diseases make breathing more difficult.

Average cost per stay: $8,034

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.8% 

Photo credit: Getty

17. Diabetes mellitus with complications

Conditions that occur from poor treatment of Diabetes are wide-ranging, from vascular diseases, blindness, and chronic kidney disease.

Average cost per stay: $9,684

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.5% 

Photo credit: Getty

16. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is another lung condition — an infectious inflammation of the air sacs.

Average cost per stay: $9,887

Percent of all US hospital stays: 2.7% 

Photo credit: Getty

15. Cardiac dysrhythmias

Cardiac dysrhythmia is the medical term for an irregular heartbeat.

Average cost per stay: $10,110

Percent of all US hospital stays: 2.0% 

Photo credit: Getty

14. Congestive heart failure

Congestive heat failure is the inability to pump an adequate amount of blood through the body and can be caused by many diseases.

Average cost per stay: $11,585

Percent of all US hospital stays: 2.5% 

Photo credit: Getty

13. Biliary tract disease

Biliary diseases are a group of conditions that affect the biliary system — including gallstones and pancreatitis.

Average cost per stay: $11,659

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.1% 

Photo credit: Getty

12. Complications of surgical procedures or medical care

Any side effect of surgery or a basic medical procedure is included here.

Average cost per stay: $13,073

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.3% 

Photo credit: Getty

11. Rehabilitation care, fitting of prostheses, and adjustment of devices

Rehabilitation includes "services that help you keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired because you were sick, hurt, or disabled."

Average cost per stay: $13,777

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.1% 

Photo credit: Getty

10. Acute cerebrovascular disease

Cerebrovascular disease impacts the blood flow in the brain and often results in strokes.

Average cost per stay: $15,111

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.6% 

Photo credit: Getty

9. Fracture of neck of femur (hip)

Breaks in the neck of the femur are common among athletes and elderly individuals with osteoporosis.

Average cost per stay: $16,043

Percent of all US hospital stays: 0.9% 

Photo credit: Getty

8. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis— or degenerative joint disease — is the wearing down of tissue between joints.

Average cost per stay: $16,149

Percent of all US hospital stays: 2.9% 

Photo credit: Getty

7. Septicemia

Septicemia— or sepsis — is blood poisoning caused by a bacterial infection.

Average cost per stay: $18,244

Percent of all US hospital stays: 3.6% 

Photo credit: Getty

6. Respiratory failure, insufficiency, arrest (adult)

Respiratory failure and insufficiency happens when the lungs cannot produce enough oxygen or expel enough carbon dioxide. Respiratory arrest is the cessation of breathing.

Average cost per stay: $18,287

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.1% 

Photo credit: Getty

5. Spondylosis, intervertebral disc disorders, other back problems

Spondylosis refers to any degeneration of the spine. Invertebral disc disorders is the breakdown of the discs inbetween the bones of the spine.

Average cost per stay: $18,375

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.6% 

Photo credit: Getty

4. Coronary atherosclerosis

Coronary atherosclerosis is a heart disease caused by plaque buildup in arteries, preventing proper blood flow.

Average cost per stay: $19,657

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.3% 

Photo credit: Getty

3. Complication of device, implant or graft

Devices, implants, and grafts are placed in the body during surgery to correct a clinical condition.

Average cost per stay: $19,669

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.8% 

Photo credit: Getty

2. Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)

Acute myocardial infarction is the medical name for a heart attack.

Average cost per stay: $20,086

Percent of all US hospital stays: 1.7% 

Photo credit: Getty

1. Heart valve disorders

Heart valve disorders is a catch-all term for any illness stemming from the improper use of any of the four heart valves that controls blood flow.

Average cost per stay: $41,878

Percent of all US hospital stays: 0.3% 

Photo credit: Getty


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