Gun violence doesn’t just injure and kill people.
It also costs the public health system in the United States a lot of time and money.
And a significant portion of taxpayer funds are being used to pay for it.
That’s the conclusion of a new study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Researchers published their findings today in the American Journal of Public Health.
Billions of dollars spent
The researchers analyzed data from 267,000 patients who were admitted to medical facilities for gun-related injuries from 2006 to 2014.
They reported that the initial hospitalization costs for these patients during the nine-year period were more than $6.6 billion.
That’s an average of $735 million a year.
The researchers noted that these were just initial costs and did not include emergency room visits or hospital readmissions after the initial injury.
The injuries in the study included gunshot wounds that were self-inflicted, accidental, and those related to assaults.
The researchers noted that 10 percent of trauma patients at Stanford’s medical facility suffered from gunshot or knife wounds.
“There is a high cost for these injuries, especially because they are preventable,” Sarabeth Spitzer, a Stanford medical student and lead author of the study, said in a press statement.
The research team also noted that research on gun violence has been limited since 1996. That’s when Congress approved a law forbidding federal funds from being used on firearms research.
That ban was lifted in January 2014.
“Firearm injuries are tied to one of the most controversial political issues in the country, so it is important for all sides to have access to fact-based research,” Spitzer said. “Cost information can be especially helpful when making health policy decisions.”
Who’s getting shot
The researchers also discovered that the gunshot victims were overwhelmingly male.
There was also a connection between their insurance status and how they were injured.
The shootings of younger individuals with those with lower incomes insured by Medicaid comprised two-thirds of the firearm injuries. These people were most often the victims of an assault.
Older people with Medicare coverage were more likely to have self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
The researchers uncovered that 40 percent of the total healthcare costs related to gun injuries is paid for by the government.
“It’s a very high financial burden,” Spitzer said.
She also noted that these kinds of cases can be ongoing.
“There’s a cost if you're readmitted. There's long-term rehab, and a lot of these patients end up needing long-term healthcare," she said.
Spitzer’s team next plans to analyze data on the costs of hospital readmissions in gun-related cases.