Two decades of declining firearm-related injuries in California is good news for population health, but the costs of treating patients who have been shot have risen drastically.
The number of people hospitalized for firearm-related injuries—from assaults to unintentional and deliberate self-inflicted shootings—has steadily dropped by a dramatic 67% over the last 20 years, from 10,832 in 1992 to 3,575 in 2010, according to a first-of-its kind report from California [PDF].
But even though the number of gun injuries has dropped throughout the state, the total cost and the per-day cost of caring for those injuries has gone up, from $1,859 per day to $4,120 per day. And hospitals may be absorbing a good bit of that bill.
Perhaps most significant, says Mary Tran, a research scientist with the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, which issued the report, "about two-thirds of the medical bill is paid by the government, which is the taxpayer."
Because government payers generally pay less than the cost of medical care provided in a hospital, that likely means that hospitals bear some brunt of the cost about two-thirds of the time persons wounded by gunshots are brought in for acute care, Tran acknowledges.