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Taxpayers Cover Up to 80 Percent of Hospital Gun Violence Costs Taxpayers Cover Up to 80 Percent of Hospital Gun Violence Costs

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Policy

Taxpayers Cover Up to 80 Percent of Hospital Gun Violence Costs

A new study says 4 of 5 firearm victims are uninsured or on Medicaid.

Treating victims of firearm assault injuries often relies on taxpayer dollars.(AP Photo/Richard Hartog)

photo of Clara Ritger
September 13, 2013

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent annually to cover the cost of treating gunshot wounds, according to a study released today.

Four of 5 firearm assault victims are uninsured or on Medicaid, the Urban Institute found.

The findings showed 52 percent of total firearm injury costs are publicly insured – primarily through Medicaid – while 28 percent are uninsured. Because taxpayers fund Medicaid and the government issues payments to hospitals for uncompensated care when the uninsured can't or don't pay, the Urban Institute says taxpayers are responsible for most of the costs of treating gunshot victims.

 

It takes a pretty penny to treat those patients. In 2010, the total estimated cost of firearm assault injuries was just under $630 million, more than the cost of some state Medicaid programs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In states that expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, many of the uninsured gunshot victims will become newly eligible for public insurance, according to the Urban Institute. That will only increase the taxpayer burden, a spokeswoman for the nonpartisan think tank said, because taxpayers cover all of the cost of Medicaid, whereas the uninsured are only partially covered by uncompensated care.

Young males make up 91 percent of total firearm assault injury costs and more than 50 percent of victims live in zip codes earning the lowest income quartile – where the median household income is less than $41,000 in 2010 – according to the findings.

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