Background Disparities in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) may affect health care utilization. We compared the correlates of hospitalizations in internal medicine divisions, of adults with NCDs, between the main population groups in Israel. Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted among Jews (N = 17,952) and Arabs (N = 10,441) aged 40 years with diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular diseases, utilizing the computerized database of the largest health maintenance organization in Israel. Information was retrieved on sociodemographics, background diseases, hospitalizations and utilizations of other health services. Multivariable log binomial regression models were performed. Results Overall, 3516 (12.4%) patients were hospitalized at least once during a one-year period (2008). Hospitalization in internal medicine divisions was more common among Arab than Jewish patients; prevalence ratio 1.24 (95% CI 1.14–1.35), and increased with age (P<0.001). An inverse association was found between residential socioeconomic status and hospitalization among Jewish patients, but not among Arab, who lived mostly in low socioeconomic status communities. In both population groups, congestive heart failure, arrhyth-mias, heart surgery, cardiac catheterization, kidney disease, asthma, neurodegenerative diseases, mental illnesses, smoking (in men) and disability were positively related to hospitalization in internal medicine divisions, which was more common also in patients who consulted any specialist and a specialist in cardiology. Emergency room visits, consulting with an ophthalmologist and performing cancer screening tests were inversely related to hospitalizations among Jewish patients only (P = 0.009 and P = 0.067 for interaction, respectively). Conclusions In a country with universal health insurance, the correlates of hospitalizations included sociodemographics, multi-morbidity, health behaviors and health services use patterns. Socioeconomic disparities might account for ethnic differences in hospitalizations. Individuals with several NCDs, rather than one specific disease, disability and smoking should be targeted to reduce healthcare costs related to hospitalizations.