Americans paid more than $6.6 billion over eight years to care for victims of gun violence, according to a new tally of hospital bills. And U.S. taxpayers picked up at least 41% of that tab.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, say the authors of a study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health. Their sum does not include the initial — and very costly — bill for gunshot victims’ care in emergency rooms. Nor does it include hospital readmissions to treat complications or provide follow-up care. The cost of rehabilitation, or of ongoing disability, is not included either.
“These are big numbers, and this is the lowest bound of these costs,” said Sarabeth A. Spitzer, a Stanford University medical student who co-wrote the study. “We were surprised” at the scale, she added.
That, arguably, makes gun-injury prevention a public health priority, Spitzer said. The GOP’s healthcare reform measure would reduce federal contributions toward Medicaid, which foots roughly 35% of the hospital bills for gunshot victims. The GOP plan would also cut payments to the hospitals that absorb much of the cost of caring for self-paying (in other words, uninsured) patients, whose hospital bills accounted for about 24% of the $730 million-per-year tab.