Jul 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal watchdog: Health costs associated with gun violence exceed $1B annually

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Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Treatment for gun-related injuries in the U.S. costs more than $1 billion per year, according to new Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The report is the first of its kind from the watchdog, per Politico, and will likely fuel Democrats' calls for expanding gun control legislation. Officials say the pandemic led to a surge in gun violence.

Details: House and Senate Democrats requested the assessment last year. Using available data on people who are injured in non-fatal gun incidents each year, the nonpartisan GAO found that:

  • Gun violence leads to about 30,000 hospital stays and 50,000 emergency room visits annually.
  • More than 15% of firearm injury survivors are readmitted at least once after initial treatment, leading to $8,000 to $11,000 more in health care costs per patient.
  • Patients with Medicaid and other public coverage made up more than 6% of health care costs since victims are usually poor.
  • Firearm injuries were disproportionately concentrated in the South.

Worth noting: Actual health costs associated with gun use yearly are likely much higher than $1 billion since the GAO's estimates don't cover treatment for long-term physical and mental injuries, the report states.

The big picture: The estimates come shortly after President Biden rolled out strategies for preventing and responding to gun violence.

  • The administration is encouraging U.S. cities to use leftover COVID relief funds for programs to address gun violence.
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