Report: U.S. gun injuries result in at least $1B in health care costs per year

·National Reporter and Producer
·3-min read

Injuries caused by guns rack up more than $1 billion in health care costs per year in the U.S., and doctors’ fees could add another 20 percent to that total, according to a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office.

The report states that a staggering 80,000 people visit the hospital each year because of firearm injuries, with 50,000 of those patients needing to go to the emergency room.

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting about reducing gun violence with local leaders from around the country, including Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser (2nd L) and Chief Robert Tracy (R) of the Wilmington Police Department, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 12, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden at a White House meeting on Monday about reducing gun violence with local leaders from around the country. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sent a letter to the GAO in 2020 requesting a report on the medical costs associated with gun violence.

The report comes as the Biden administration aims to address the nationwide surge in gun violence, announcing in June a plan to tackle the growing threat. Biden has called the issue an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.”

Maloney and Warren also noted this in their letter, pointing out that the rates of gun violence in the United States are significantly higher than in comparable nations.

“The gun violence epidemic is one of the most pressing public health crises facing our nation,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are killed by guns, and nearly 70,000 others suffer gun-related injuries.”

Police investigate a crime scene where three people were shot at the Wentworth Gardens housing complex in the Bridgeport neighborhood on June 23, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Police investigate a crime scene where three people were shot at the Wentworth Gardens housing complex in Chicago on June 23. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The commissioned GAO report found that first-year costs for firearm injuries are significant. It says up to 16 percent of survivors returned at least once for their injury, with average costs of $8,000 to $11,000 per patient. Furthermore, expenses from care lasting longer than a year get murky, and it’s difficult to know the true cost, the report says, because much of the relevant data is too old to rely on. For this report, researchers used data from 2016 and 2017, the most recent available estimates.

The medical costs of treating gun injuries are covered mostly by public assistance programs like Medicaid and Medicare, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the costs of this care, the report says. The lifelong costs include physical and mental health, and the estimates could be well over $1 billion if up-to-date numbers were known.

The Gun Violence Archive, an organization that tracks gun violence in America, reports that there have been 21,510 firearm injuries so far this year. The surge in gun violence has put pressure on lawmakers in Washington and in cities plagued by violent crime across the country to seek solutions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week the state will provide funding to create 2,000 summer jobs for teens and young adults in heavy crime hot spots in New York City and will partner with a program to help create another 2,000-plus jobs. In Los Angeles, city officials are looking to make changes, as this year has seen a 50 percent increase in shooting victims compared with last year, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

Police converge on the scene of a shooting in Brooklyn, one of numerous during the day, on July 14, 2021 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Police on Wednesday at the scene of a shooting in Brooklyn. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Also this week, President Biden met with police chiefs and mayors, including Chicago Police Superintendent David O’Neal Brown, to discuss how to combat gun violence. He also called for Congress to pass gun legislation, the Associated Press reported, an issue that has been immovable in the past.

Cover thumbnail photo: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

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