Hospitalizations cost patients at least 60% more in January than December, study finds

The month a patient is hospitalized can have a big effect on how high their bill will be, a study published May 5 in JAMA Health Forum found. 

Because health plan deductibles typically reset at the beginning of each year, the researchers compared hospitalization costs between December and January from 2010 to 2019. 

For patients in ICUs, the average cost-sharing for their hospitalization was $1,079 in December and $1,871 in January, a 73.4 percent increase. 

For non-ICU hospitalizations, the average cost share amount was $1,043 in January and $1,683 in January, a 61.3 percent increase. 

The effect was more pronounced for individuals with high-deductible health plans. For people with high deductibles, an ICU stay cost an average of $3,093 in January versus $1,301 in December. 

The researchers wrote that deductibles that reset at the beginning of each year have "unequal consequences for different patients." 

Deductibles that reset at shorter intervals throughout the year could ease burdens on patients with high deductibles who struggle to afford unexpected emergency expenses, the authors said. 

The study was conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. 

Read the full study here. 

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