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.

An Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms officer confiscates guns during a raid on a home Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in San Clemente, Calif. A suspect was arrested at the house on alleged weapons trafficking charges.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Sept. 13, 2013, 8:31 a.m.

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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