Gun injuries costing Americans hundreds of millions in hospital bills

With the health care debate alive and kicking once again, a new study has found that Americans are paying hundreds of millions a year to care for people suffering from gun-related injuries.

The study, published by the American Health Association, look at patients admitted to hospitals for gun-related injuries from 2006-2014 and found the hospitalization costs totaled $6.61 billion. That averages out to over $730 million per year.

About 41 percent of those costs were for people with government-issued insurance, such as Medicaid and Medicare, paid for by American taxpayers.

Important to note is that the study did not include emergency room costs for gunshot victims, nor did it include costs for subsequent hospital readmissions for follow-up care, treatment for complications, rehabilitation or ongoing disability.

Sarabeth A. Spitzer, Stanford medical student and co-author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times the costs were just the tip of the iceberg.

“These are big numbers, and this is the lowest bound of these costs,” Spitzer said, adding that the authors were “surprised” at the scale.

“These are expensive injuries,” Spitzer said.

According to the Los Angeles Times, some 33,700 people died from gunfire in 2014, while 81,000 people were treated for non-fatal gunshot injuries.

Of the 267,265 patients included in the study, most were male and admitted to urban hospitals. The percentage of uninsured patients was highest in the South, where 43 percent of the victims were treated.

About 30 percent of the victims nationwide were insured by Medicaid, and about 24 percent of the costs came from patients who had no insurance at all. About 80 percent of those uninsured patients were below the 50th income percentile.

“Firearm-related injuries place a particular burden on governmental payers and the poor,” the authors of the study wrote.