The average cost of a Maryland hospital stay rose $500 during the just-ended fiscal year to $9,440 - a 5.4 percent increase that was lower than the national average, according to a report released yesterday by the state's Health Services Cost Review Commission.
Throughout the United States, the price tag for such inpatient medical care rose 6.4 percent.
Keeping Maryland's increase below the nationwide average has been a goal of the commission, which was established by the Maryland legislature in 1971 amid public concern over rising hospital costs. Its seven commissioners' primary purpose is to set the rates that the state's medical centers may charge.
During the previous fiscal year, when the average four-day hospital stay ran about $8,958, commissioners proposed keeping the rate increase at just above 5 percent, reversing a three-year trend that saw Maryland's rates rise faster than the country's.
"We are back on track in doing better than the nation in managing the rate of growth in hospital payments," commission Chairman Irvin W. Kues said in a statement, adding that he and his colleagues will "never take for granted" their role in keeping health care affordable.
Hospitals had fought for a larger increase, arguing that they needed to raise prices more than the national average to maintain facilities and pay for $6 billion in capital improvements scheduled through 2010.
The commission's report also found that total hospital profits rose 25 percent to $463 million during fiscal year 2006, which ended June 30, from $369 million a year earlier. Patient revenue rose 8 percent to $9.1 billion, from $8.4 billion in fiscal year 2005, in part because of a slight increase in the number of admissions.