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Hospital costs up 7.41% in Md. last year Patients' bills average $5,384, review panel says


The cost of an average stay in a Maryland hospital last year was $5,384, a 7.41 percent increase over the previous year -- a lower rate than the national average, according to a annual report relesed today by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission.

While the percentage increase of an average hospital stay was held to a single digit, charges per day increased by 11.5 percent to $836.13. The difference in the increases was because the length of stay by patient dropped 4 percent during the year, according to John M. Colmers, executive director of the commission.

While saying hospital charges in Maryland are "well below" those in the rest of the country, Mr. Colmers said there is no effective way of comparing the rates because of the large amount of discounting that it done in other hospital systems.

But on the basis of hospital costs alone Maryland hospital rates increased by 6.88 percent compared to a national average of 9.77 percent, according to the commission report. This meant a savings of about $92.4 million in hospital costs, the commission said.

This was 16th consecutive year that Maryland hospital costs rose at a rate less than the national average.

Maryland hospitals add about 12 percent more to their costs to arrive at their charges, compared to a national average of 42 percent.

The commission is the state board that regulates hospital fees.

With only a few exceptions, the commission does not regulate the fees charged by doctors working in or outside of hospitals.

The report was based on financial information from Maryland's 54 acute care hospitals. Most of the reports were on a fiscal year that ended June 30, 1991. However, seven of the reports were for the calendar year 1990, Mr. Colmers said.

Uncompensated care in hospitals during the year increased by 13.3 percent to $308 million, or 8.06 percent of all revenues collected by hospitals. This amount is passed on to consumers and their insurance companies in the form of higher rates.

This problem will get worse this year because of a decision by the state government to eliminate on Nov. 1 inpatient Medicaid payments to people receiving state General Public Assistance. The commission estimates that this will add another $70 million worth of uncompensated bills, or about a 23 percent increase, Mr. Colmers said.

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