The cost of initial hospital treatment of gun-related injuries tops $1 billion a year, with Medicaid and other public health coverage accounting for more than 60% of the total, according to a report released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office. Physician costs not captured in the data could add around 20% to the $1 billion total, the report said.
“While not receiving needed services may minimize costs initially, the consequences of unmet health needs for firearm injury survivors may ultimately result in greater costs,” the report adds.
A 2017 study in the journal Health Affairs estimated the total annual cost of inpatient and emergency department treatment of firearm injuries at about $2.8 billion.
As of 2016 and 2017, the most recent data available, there were about 30,000 hospital inpatient stays and about 50,000 emergency room visits a year to treat firearm injuries, according to the GAO.
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), one of the House and Senate Democrats who requested the GAO report last year, said that it “provides shocking new evidence of how gun violence strains our health care system and disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities.” She called for Congress to fund better gun violence research and said it is “appalling” that data on long-term health costs of gun violence is more than two decades old.
The report’s release comes as the Biden administration is urging cities to spend unused Covid relief money to address gun violence.