Hospital Costs and the Cost of Empty Hospital Beds

Martin Gaynor, Gerard F. Anderson

NBER Working Paper No. 3872
Issued in October 1991
NBER Program(s):Health Economics

The cost of excess capacity in the hospital industry has reemerged as an important policy issue. Utilized capacity in the hospital industry, as measured by the inpatient hospital bed occupancy rate, has declined over the past 10 years and now stands at approximately 65 percent. Congress and the Administration are concerned that the costs associated with empty beds represent wasteful expense and have proposed an adjustment to Medicare payment rates which will penalize hospitals with low occupancy rates. Hospitals, on the other hand, have indicated that the costs of empty hospital beds are low and that reimbursement adjustments are unnecessary. In order to provide more current and representative estimates of the cost of an empty hospital bed we estimate the cost function model of Friedman and Pauly using data from a national sample of 5315 hospitals for the years 1963-1987. We find that empty beds account for approximately 18 percent of total costs, or $546 per admission (1987 dollars) . The estimate (in 1987 dollars) of the coat of an empty hospital bed is approximately $36,000.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w3872

Published: Published as "Uncertain Demand, the Structure of Hospital Costs, and the Cost of Empty Hospital Beds", Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 14, no. 3 (1995): 291-317.

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