Average Cost at US Hospitals Rises to $500 for Outpatient Visit, $22,000 for Inpatient Stay

Costs Are Expected to Continue Rising

Hospital visits are costly, even if the patient does not stay overnight.

The average hospital trip in the U.S. has reached nearly $500, according to a study released Thursday in the Institute for Health Metrics and Analysis at the University of Washington. That could put many Americans in a difficult place, considering that four in 10 adults can not pay a $400 crisis cost, based on the 2018 Federal Reserve Board's financial Well-Being report.

In 1995, the typical hospital trip was $275, which means they have increased by 62% after adjusting for inflation, the investigators said.

The U.S. is the most expensive country in the world for healthcare.

The study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published in the Lancet Public Health journal, analyzed the financing and services required to implement universal health care, a system which would provide and pay for healthcare for all citizens (usually through taxation). Some Democrats ran on platforms calling for universal healthcare, or "Medicare for All," through the midterm elections.

To treat spiraling healthcare costs, Americans can comparison shop for their medical costs, including prescriptions and procedures. Most Americans assume these prices are set at a fixed cost, but that is not necessarily the case. Some folks lose thousands of dollars annually by not shopping around, based on researchers at Harvard, Yale and Columbia Universities. Fewer than 1 percent of individuals used cost transparency tools, including sites or programs, to obtain the lowest deals for medical procedures. The same holds for prescriptions -- some pharmacists will work with patients to find less-expensive options, like opting for a generic brand rather than name-brand medication, or charging a cash price, rather than processing the medication through an insurer.

Apart from comparison shopping, Americans must ask questions -- a lot of questions -- before agreeing to medical procedures, medications or services, particularly at a hospital. Over half of Americans (53 percent ) were charged for healthcare providers, and another 51 percent said those bills came from lab tests, according to a survey from the NORC at the University of Chicago (previously called the National Opinion Research Center). Patients might not know that some bills comprise facility fees, which help cover the hospitals' overhead expenses. When working with health care professionals, patients must ask if their services, references and even labs are within their medical insurance provider's network to prevent surprise bills later.