The number of hospitalizations paid by Medicaid went up at a faster rate than those covered by private insurance, according to a statistical brief issued Jan. 19 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And that was before the full force of the recession had hit. Researchers analyzed data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which includes information on 95% of hospital discharges. Hospital stays among those with private insurance grew from 13.4 million in 1997 to 14.1 million in 2008, an increase of 5%. The numbers for patients on Medicaid went up by 30%, from 5.6 million to 7.4 million, and hospitalizations among the uninsured expanded 27%, from 1.7 million to 2.1 million. Patients on Medicaid tended to stay in the hospital longer than those on private insurance or without coverage. Medicaid patients had an average length of stay of 4.3 days. The privately insured and uninsured stayed an average of 3.8 days. The report did not explore the reasons behind the numbers, but the data mirror other surveys finding that hospitals increasingly are strained during the recession by the growing need for unreimbursed care and an expanding Medicaid population. The AHRQ report compared figures from 1997 to 2008. About 43.4 million people were uninsured in 1997, but the number grew to 46.3 million in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Medicaid patients grew even more significantly. About 29 million relied on Medicaid in 1997, and the number jumped to 42.6 million in 2008. Since then, the number of uninsured and Medicaid recipients has gone up as unemployment has risen and stayed high, at more than 9%. Hospital associations have expressed concern about Medicaid cuts under consideration in several states. Low Medicaid reimbursement rates have been one reason given for several mass layoffs at hospitals during the past year. The full and original article can be found at: