IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Impact of Market Environment on Excess Capacity and the Cost of an Empty Hospital Bed


  • Jon Magnussen
  • Lee Rivers Mobley


The health economics literature contains contradictory empirical findings regarding the cost of an empty hospital bed. Recent empirical studies which account for the endogeneity of reserve capacity produce high estimates of these costs, while earlier studies and industry experts maintain that empty beds are cheap. This paper provides evidence which helps to reconcile the controversy. The cost of excess bed capacity will depend upon staffing levels of different types of labor in the hospital. We provide a relationship between capacity utilization, productive efficiency, and the cost of empty beds, and then compare the utilization of bed capacity in four very different market environments. These are the highly regulated, public Norwegian hospitals, who face very little competitive pressure, and the unregulated, private California hospitals, divided into three groups with variation in ownership and competitive environment. We find considerable variation in input utilization and excess capacity, with different implications for the cost of empty beds across the hospital groups and their respective market environments. Our findings suggest that the cost of an empty bed varies with market conditions, hence the seemingly contradictory findings in the literature are to be expected. Our findings also suggest an interesting area of future research: the impact of managed care on reserve capacity in hospitals.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon Magnussen & Lee Rivers Mobley, 1999. "The Impact of Market Environment on Excess Capacity and the Cost of an Empty Hospital Bed," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(3), pages 383-398.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:ijecbs:v:6:y:1999:i:3:p:383-398 DOI: 10.1080/13571519984142

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keeler, Theodore E & Ying, John S, 1996. "Hospital Costs and Excess Bed Capacity: A Statistical Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(3), pages 470-481, August.
    2. Jensen, Gail A & Morrisey, Michael A, 1986. "The Role of Physicians in Hospital Production," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(3), pages 432-442, August.
    3. Gaynor, Martin & Anderson, Gerard F., 1995. "Uncertain demand, the structure of hospital costs, and the cost of empty hospital beds," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 291-317, August.
    4. Iversen, Tor, 1993. "A theory of hospital waiting lists," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-71, April.
    5. Roger Feldman & Felix Lobo, 1997. "Global Budgets and Excess Demand for Hospital Care," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(2), pages 187-196.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Lukas Steinmann & Gunnar Dittrich & Alexander Karmann & Peter Zweifel, 2004. "Measuring and comparing the (in)efficiency of German and Swiss hospitals," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 5(3), pages 216-226, September.
    2. Björn A. Kuchinke & Ansgar Wübker, 2009. "Defizite von öffentlichen Allgemeinkrankenhäusern in Deutschland: Empirische Befunde von 1998 bis 2004 und wirtschaftspolitische Implikationen," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 10(3), pages 290-308, August.
    3. Gunnar Dittrich & Alexander Karmann & Lukas Steinmann & Peter Zweifel, 2005. "Effiziente Krankenhäuser? : ein Vergleich sächsischer und schweizerischer Krankenhäuser," ifo Dresden berichtet, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 12(02), pages 9-18, 04.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:ijecbs:v:6:y:1999:i:3:p:383-398. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.