Along with the incalculable toll on victims and their families, gun violence in the U.S. also exacts another heavy cost: More than $1 billion a year in medical bills.
That figure only accounts for the initial health costs of hospital care for people who are shot, according to a report released by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee ahead of a Wednesday hearing on the economic impact of gun violence.
"The costs are born most directly by victims and their families," Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York City, said in the hearing.
For victims of fatal firearm injuries, medical costs totaled $290 million in 2020 and cost an average of $9,000 per patient, with much of the cost paid for by public health insurance providers such as Medicaid, according to the panel, citing figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's just devastating"
"Treating gunshot injuries is way more expensive than any other type of injury," said the physician, also a National Institutes of Health-funded firearm injury prevention researcher. "A bullet wound versus a stab wound, versus a car accident. It's just devastating, the amount of damage that one bullet causes, especially in a child whose organs are all next to each other, very close to one another, cannot be described."
Every year, firearms-related injuries cause 30,000 initial in-patient hospital stays, each of which result in average treatment costs of $31,000, and 50,000 initial ER visits that run an average of $1,500 a piece, according to the report, which cited a study by the Government Accountability Office.
Each day, more than 300 Americans are shot, and more than 110 are killed by gunfire. For survivors, health care bills typically surge more than $25,000 in the first month following a shooting, and then averages nearly $2,500 a month for a full year after the injury, the committee found.
Gun violence also adds more than $3 billion in annual costs to already strained school budgets, which now must cover increased security measures in response to mass shootings targeting children and teenagers, according to the JEC findings.
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