Louisville’s University Hospital treated more than 700 people with gunshot wounds in 2003-04, reports the city’s Courier-Journal. The cost: more than $18 million. Officials say University Hospital is on pace to see 400 gunshot victims this year, at an estimated cost exceeding $10 million. Gun violence is a “huge public health problem,” said Dr. William Smock, an emergency medicine specialist who directed a recent study that outlined those numbers.
While gunshot victims represent just 6 percent of University’s trauma patients, the cost of treating them is eating up the hospital’s indigent care budget, according to the study, which the hospital undertook with federal grant money aimed at reducing gun violence. Last year, the hospital received $7 million from the city to help cover the cost of all indigent care, for all types of treatment. But that’s nearly what it cost to treat gunshot victims who couldn’t pay, Smock said. About one-third of the $18 million in hospital charges for gunshot cases in 2003 and 2004 were covered by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. The rest involved patients who either had no insurance or could not pay, Smock said.