1 in 5 Hospital Patients Who Leave Against Medical Advice Are Uninsured

Cheryl Clark, November 13, 2013

Incidences of patients leaving the hospital against medical advice rose sharply between 1997 and 2011, particularly among patients financially responsible for their own care.

The number of patients who get up from their hospital beds and walk out the door before their doctors say they're well enough to go, is up 41% between 1997 and 2011.

These figures on patients said to leave AMA or against medical advice, come from a statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a division of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The brief says the number of AMA patients went from 264,000 in 1997 to 373,000 in 2011, with people between the ages of 45 and 64 accounting for most of the increase, 27% in 1997 to 41% in 2011. However, among patients between the ages of 18 and 44, such ill-advised departures went down, from 56% in 1997 to 44% in 2011.

Anne Elixhauser, the principal author for AHRQ, says that while the survey data doesn't provide insight into why this is happening, one clue may lie in who is paying the bill for patients who leave the hospital AMA, and what has happened to the economy between 1997 and 2011.

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