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Hospital expenses growing in Grand Rapids despite fewer admissions, shorter stays

Grand Rapids' "medical mile"
John Eisenschenk
Creative Commons
MSU's College of Human Medicine building is the latest addition to the "medical mile".

Hospital expenses grew by 108% in Grand Rapids between 2002 and 2013, according to a study released today by Grand Valley State University. It compared the hospital market in Grand Rapids to Detroit and six other cities.

Patients are being admitted less often and have shorter stays.

Grand Valley State University Assistant Professor of Economics Kevin Callison co-authored the study.

He says Grand Rapids’ hospital prices are about average.

“What’s kind of unnerving is that it seems to be that the changes in expenditures are increasing at a pretty high rate, so we’re climbing up those ranks,” Callison said.

There are only three big providers in Grand Rapids. Callison thinks that plays a big part in driving up prices so quickly.

“Most of the research suggests that when you reduce competition or you increase consolidation in the hospital market you see higher prices,” he said.

The study also shows one in five people smokes or binge drinks. One third is obese.

“You think about well how much of these expenditures could be reduced if we reduced some of these unhealthy behaviors. And certainly there’s a lot of room there to improve even though, compared to other areas, we do pretty well already,” Callison said.

The study shows it costs more to treat certain chronic conditions, especially coronary artery disease, in Grand Rapids than in metro Detroit.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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