Americans must work 504 hours to cover typical hospital stay

Workers making the average American salary of $26.22 an hour need to work 504 hours to cover the cost of a typical 4.6-day hospital stay, according to an Oct. 17 report from the personal finance site ValuePenguin.

To calculate how many hours Americans need to afford an average hospital stay, ValuePenguin researchers started with the average daily cost of a stay from the Kaiser Family Foundation, according to the report. They then multiplied the average length of stay — 4.6 days, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality — by the average daily cost and divided that figure by the average hourly earnings — via the Bureau of Labor Statistics.        

ValuePenguin said in the report that total hours needed assumes workers are footing the entire bill themselves. 

"Still, it's a staggering figure, and it's one that's been on the rise," ValuePenguin said in the report. "In fact, the cost of a typical hospital stay is up 98 percent since 2004, when hospital stays cost an average of $1,450 a day. With consumers earning an average hourly wage of $17.86 in 2004, the typical hospital stay cost 374 hours of work at that time."

ValuePenguin health insurance expert Nick VinZant said a combination of factors have led to rising healthcare costs, including an aging population and an increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses. He also said the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rising costs. 

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