Average Md. hospital bill goes up 7.4%, to $5,384 Pace of increase below national figure

February 06, 1992|By Ross Hetrick

The bill for an average stay in a Maryland hospital was $5,384 last year, 7.41 percent more than in the previous year, according to a report yesterday from the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission.

Although the percentage increase was held to less than 10 percent and was below the national average, charges per day increased 11.5 percent, to $836.13, the report showed.

JTC Much of the effect of that increase was offset, however, by a 4 percent decline during the year in the length of an average stay in a hospital, said John M. Colmers, executive director of the commission, which regulates hospital fees.

Last year was the 16th consecutive year in which Maryland hospital charges have risen more slowly than the national average.

Mr. Colmers, although noting that hospital charges in Maryland were "well below" those in the rest of the country, acknowledged that there is no accurate way to compare the rates because of the large discounts that other hospital systems in other states offer. The commission does not permit discounts below approved rates unless costs justify them.

Hospital costs in Maryland -- in contrast to what the hospital charges its patients -- increased 6.88 percent, compared with a national average of 9.77 percent, the commission report said.

The difference between costs and charges at Maryland hospitals is about 12 percent, compared with a national average of 42 percent.

The report was based on financial information from Maryland's 54 acute-care hospitals. Information for most of the hospitals was for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1991. Information for seven hospitals was for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 1990, Mr. Colmers said.

The report also showed that the amount of free medical service the hospitals provided during the year increased 13.3 percent, to $308 million, an amount equal to 8.06 percent of all of their revenues.

The problem will get worse this year because of a decision by the state government to eliminate Medicaid payments to patients staying at hospitals and receiving state welfare payments. That move, which will take effect Nov. 1, will add $70 million worth of uncompensated bills, the commission estimates, increase of about 23 percent.

NB To prepare, the commission approved a 1.75 percent increase in

hospital rates in November.

Hospital profits dropped 12.1 percent during the year, to $58.7 million from $66.8 million. Fifteen hospitals recorded profits of more than $2 million each, and three had losses of more than $2 million each. The names of the hospitals were not included with the information.

The biggest money loser was the Homewood Medical Center, which closed most of its operation in May. The hospital, which was part of the Johns Hopkins Health System, lost $12.6 million during the year, primarily because of the closing, Mr. Colmers said.

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