The profitability of Medicare admissions based on source of admission

Megan McHugh*, Marsha Regenstein, Bruce Siegel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study investigates whether admissions from the emergency department (ED) have lower dollar margins than elective admissions under Medicare and explores two possible reasons for differences in margins. Methods: The authors developed patient-level Medicare dollar margins (calculated as patient revenue minus cost) for 1,159,243 Medicare admissions from 321 hospitals using data from the 2003 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) and the Medicare Impact File. Differences in margins between ED and elective admissions were explored across a number of diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) using t-tests. Chi-square tests were used explore whether ED admission was more common among patients in low-profit DRGs and/or patients with greater severity of illness. Results: The average Medicare dollar margins were -$712 (95% confidence interval [CI] = -$729 to -$695) for ED admissions and $22 (95% CI = -$2 to $47) for elective admissions. Medicare dollar margins for ED admissions were lower than those of elective admission for the most common DRGs. ED admission was associated with greater patient severity of illness. Conclusions: Source of admission is a financially meaningful classification. Because Medicare payment policy does not recognize differences in cost based on patients' route of admission, hospitals may have a financial incentive to favor elective admissions over ED admissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-907
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Emergency department
  • Medicare
  • Profitability
  • Source of admission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The profitability of Medicare admissions based on source of admission'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this