Here’s How Many Hours You’d Have To Work To Pay the Average Hospital Bill

a young nurse stands and chats to a senior woman patient as she leaves the surgery.
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Hospital visits have gotten more expensive over the past decade, with average stays topping $10,000 per patient according to recent research studies. And while insurance can help cover the costs, the cost of health insurance has been rising as well.

Average-income families who don’t have great health insurance might be stuck with massive hospital bills that could take a long time to pay off. Here’s how many hours you’d have to work to pay the average hospital bill.

How Many Work Hours To Pay Off an Average Hospital Bill

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for workers in America is around $33.44 per hour. The average hospital stay is around 4.6 days, with the average cost per day at the hospital being $2,883. This brings the average hospital stay to $13,261!

This means that you would need to work just over 397 hours at a $33.44 hourly rate to pay back the average hospital bill. That’s nearly 400 hours just to pay off the bill, or almost 10 weeks of full-time work.

If you make less than the average wage of $33.44 per hour, it can take significantly longer to pay off a hospital bill of this size. For example; if you only make the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, it would take over 1,600 hours to pay off an $11,700 bill. This is nearly 10 months of full-time work, assuming 160 hours per month.

Hospital Costs By Location

The cost to stay at a hospital can vary wildly by state, so the average total hospital bill can be higher or lower, depending on where you live. According to data by Kaiser, the average daily rate for a hospital stay in 2021 was $2,883. If we multiply this by the average stay of 4.6 days, this gives us a total of $13,261.

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On the low end of the spectrum however, hospital stays in Mississippi only cost an average of $1,305 per day, while a hospital stay in California costs around $4,181 per day. At an average 4.6 days per visit, this gives an average cost range of $6,003 – $19,232.

Where you live can save you thousands of dollars in hospital costs according to the data, assuming you’re covering the entirety of the costs, which isn’t always the case.

Hospital Stay Costs Have More Than Doubled in Past 20 Years

According to the data from Kaiser, hospital stay costs are up more than double. This has outpaced inflation — which is up around 63% in that same time frame — and healthcare costs continue to rise at a rapid pace.

The average hospital stay costs $1,371 per day in 2003, and now costs $2,883 in 2023. This 110% increase reflects the reality that healthcare costs are rising due to more hospitalizations and chronic illness with older generations, and well as increased equipment and facility costs.

All of these costs get passed on to patients in the form of massive hospital bills.

How To Manage Huge Hospital Bills

Getting a big bill after a hospital stay feels kind of rude, but you don’t need to panic if you have a plan to manage the bill. Here are a few tips to managing large hospital bills.

Have an Emergency Fund

It’s important to have a large emergency fund in place to help protect you from life’s emergencies, including medical emergencies. Put away three-to-six months’ expenses in a savings account to ensure you have money in place to help cover expenses like large hospital bills.

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Negotiate Your Bills

Most hospitals have discounts available, but you have to ask. While some offer payment assistance, others offer cash discounts. Always negotiate hospital bills instead of paying them off right away.

Get Good Coverage

Having the right health insurance in place for your situation can help pay for large hospital bills. While most insurance coverage has a deductible, find one with a reasonable deductible to help cover a majority of your bill and save you thousands. Plus most insurance companies have negotiated rates with healthcare providers, which can lower your bill significantly. 

Use a Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you have a high-deductible health plan, you can open an HSA and begin saving tax-free dollars in it. Even better, you can typically invest the funds in your HSA account for further growth and protection against larger medical bills. The money can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for medical expenses.

Bottom line

The average hospital bill is very expensive, and if you don’t have the right health insurance coverage it can become a financial nightmare. It’s important to protect yourself with the right level of insurance before a big bill comes your way. It’s also important to understand how much hospital stays cost to ensure that you can pay off any bills thrown your way, or it can really hurt your finances and credit score.

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