The average New Jerseyan's hospital stay lasts nearly five days and costs almost $11,000, both more than the national average, federal data shows.
Residents spent some 5.4 million days in the hospital in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, as part of 1.1 million stays, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That averaged 4.8 days per stay, slightly higher than the national average of 4.5 days.
Similarly, the average cost per hospital stay in the state was also higher than the national average -- $10,685 here, compared with $10,109 nationwide. The aggregate cost -- an estimate of the actual value of services and medical supplies, rather than the amount charged, which is typically higher -- for all stays in New Jersey was a staggering $11.9 billion.
The cost varied widely based on age and type of insurance, generally coinciding with the length of the typical hospital stay. Senior citizens had the longest average stay -- 5.7 days -- and the highest average cost -- $13,350. The mean hospital cost for Medicare beneficiaries was $13,205, for an average 5.8 days.
Costs also differed by county, though the reason why isn't completely clear.
Burlington County, for instance, had the highest average cost: $12,796 for a 4.6-day stay. Two other South Jersey counties -- Atlantic and Camden -- also had average costs of more than $11,000. The typical cost was lowest in Hudson County: $9,633 for a 4.7-day stay. It was also less than $10,000 in Passaic in north Jersey and Ocean and Cape May counties at the Shore.
"The hospitals will have a very different mix of patients and with varying health conditions," said Joel Cantor, director of the Center for State Health Policy and a professor at Rutgers University. "Higher average costs could be due to having a sicker population."
Costs at the county level also did not necessarily correspond to the length of the stay in the hospital. The shortest stay was 4.2 days, for Cape May residents, who paid the fourth-smallest mean bill. The typical stay for Essex residents was more than a day longer, 5.3 days, but cost less than $1,000 more, since Essex had the seventh-highest charge of the 20 counties for which data was available.
No data was available for Salem County due to the large amount of missing patient information.