Who pays for medical bills after mass shootings?

When Ashtin Gamblin remembers the night she was shot nine times, she can picture herself lying in the ambulance and worrying if she can afford it.

“That’s what the American medical system is like,” he told ABC News. “I’ve just been shot and I’m worried about how I’m going to pay for the ambulance ride.”

Gamblin worked the front door of Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs where an attack last November left five dead and dozens injured. The bullets pierced Gamblin’s arms and chest, sending her to the hospital for emergency surgery and a six-day hospital stay, she said.

After returning home, Gamblin received a letter telling her that her health care costs ran to $300,000 and that her private insurance would not cover it.

Gamblin is one of hundreds injured in mass shootings each year. In May, the nation hosted 184 mass shootings this year, leaving 248 dead and 744 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

While data on the cost of mass shooting-related injuries is limited, treatment for gun violence-related health care runs into the billions each year, drawing on public and private insurances paid for ultimately by taxpayers and employers in the country. nation, experts told ABC News.

“The human toll but also the financial cost that comes with these types of injuries is enormous,” Patrick Carter, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan and co-director of the Institute for Injury Prevention, told ABC News. from firearm.

Treatment for the first year after a gun attack increased medical costs for survivors by an average of $30,000, quadrupling the costs incurred by Zirui Song and a team of researchers, according to a study published last year by Zirui Song and a team of researchers. a given individual in a typical year. colleagues at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Counting about 85,000 gun violence survivors each year, the additional cost of initial treatment amounted to $2.5 billion, according to the study.

“These are costs that society has to bear,” Song told ABC News.

Ninety-six percent of the additional health care costs came from public insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and other insurance programs such as workplace compensation, as well as private insurance coverage offered by an employer, Song said, noting that the remaining 4 % came out of their own pockets from victims who didn’t have insurance or who chose to cover health care on their own.

Between 2010 and 2022, the cost of initial hospital care for gun violence victims in New York City was borne primarily by Medicare and Medicaid, which covered at least 70 percent of the costs, according to a study published in December by Gina Moreno, a senior research analyst at the John Jay College Research and Evaluation Center.

Because Medicare and Medicaid receive funding from the federal government, the costs fall on taxpayers nationwide, Moreno told ABC News.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a person in a small town in Utah, you as a taxpayer are covering for someone who gets hurt in Queens,” Moreno said.

Those findings represent only a fraction of the costs, however, as they exclude long-term treatment and indirect effects, such as loss of income or resources needed to support family members, experts said.

In an effort to account for the wider range of costs, advocacy group Everytown found in a report last year that gun violence costs $557 billion each year, which amounts to about 2.6 percent of gross domestic product. of the country. About $12.6 billion is being paid by taxpayers, the group found.

The study incorporated short- and long-term health care costs as well as resources needed for the criminal justice system and a monetary equivalent for pain and suffering, the organization said.

“Regardless of the gunshot wound, there are long-term consequences that persist for life,” Carter said. “Those fall largely on our health insurance system.”

The health effects of mass shooting injuries also extend to family members. Over a one-year period following a gunshot wound, victims’ family members experienced a 12 percent increase in psychiatric disorders, Song and her colleagues found.

“These firearms have a wide range of knock-on effects between families, employers and society,” Song said. “This touches everyone.”

After the attack at Club Q, Gamblin had doctor’s appointments five days a week, she said. She currently receives 20 hours a week of home care and psychiatric care for PTSD, she added.

He estimates his healthcare costs since the attack total more than $1 million. Eventually, she received coverage from workers’ compensation and private insurance, but the process took a toll, she said.

“In a perfect world, I wouldn’t bother paying for it,” she said. “I didn’t ask for that.”

ABC News’ Kiara Alfonseca contributed to the reporting.

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