Gun violence resulted in initial hospital costs of more than $6.6 billion over 9 years

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Gunshot wounds are resulting into massive initial hospital costs with a new study indicating that over a course of just 9 years from 2006 through 2014, the costs were more than $6.6 billion across the U.S.

These figures are the result of an analysis of data from 267,265 patients carried out by scientists at Stanford School of Medicine who revealed that the annual cost of gunshot wounds stand at an average of $734.6 million per year. The patients were admitted for firearm-related injuries during the nine-year period and while the costs are staggering, scientists note that these costs do not include costs incurred because of a number of other related things such as costs of emergency room visits or hospital readmissions.

Scientists point out that these costs are particularly high for injuries that are completely preventable. The study included hospitalization costs of shooting injuries that were self-inflicted, unintentional or due to assault.

Researchers point out that despite the hospitalization costs from gun violence being massive, there is little research on gun violence from a public health perspective. This is, in part, due to a measure Congress passed in 1996 that restricts federal funding for firearms research, scientists note.

Studies have been carried out to analyze the total cost of firearm injuries, but almost all of them have either focused on a particular state or on a short time period. The Stanford team set out to estimate the national medical costs of firearm injuries over a nine-year period by using publicly available data in the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest database in the United States, which houses information from about 8 million hospital discharges each year.

The researchers picked patients who were admitted for firearm-related injuries and analyzed the severity of their wounds, the cost of their care, where they were hospitalized and how they paid for the hospitalizations.

The team interrogated the data to address two primary questions: What were the total medical costs when gunshot victims were first hospitalized, and where did the financial burden of medical care fall? The team found that the government bears about 40 percent of the total costs – a massive financial burden, scientists note.

Victims paid their hospital bills through different means such as Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or out of their pockets. Patients were overwhelmingly male, and there was a correlation between their insurance status and how they sustained their injuries. For example, shootings of young and poor individuals insured by Medicaid comprised two-thirds of firearm injuries, and they were most often victims of assault. In contrast, older Medicare-insured patients were more likely to suffer from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

The study captures costs for a very limited experience because the costs of firearm injuries continue in many different ways, scientists note. There’s hospital readmission costs along with long-term rehab costs and costs involved with long-term health care.

The study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.