Patients readmitted to the hospital from firearm injuries are costing the US $86million a year, a new study had found.
More than 32,000 people die and more than 67,000 people are injured by firearms each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Examining six years of national data, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in California found that 15.6 percent of patients with gun injuries are readmitted within six months of their initial discharge.
The average bill for an inpatient hospital stay was $32,700, with readmission accounting for nearly 10 percent of the cost.
The team says its findings shed a light on how costly firearm injuries are and says that implementing policy changes – such as strengthening background checks – could help drive down both injuries and costs.
A new study has found that the average bill for an inpatient hospital stay was $32,700 with readmission accounting for nearly 10 percent of the cost (file image)
‘We end up as a society paying a huge amount for these injuries,’ said lead author Sarabeth Spitzer, a fourth-year medical student at Stanford.
‘These numbers draw attention to the fact there are consequences we all face when people are injured by guns.’
When a bullet enters the body it can rip tissue, splinter bones and dislocate limbs.
Additionally, a bullet can fragment after impact and spread throughout the body.
If bullets have exit wounds, they typically contain less damage than bullets that stay inside the body and continue to damage and destroy tissue.
For this new study, published in PLOS ONE, the team wanted to look deeper at how much these injuries cost healthcare systems.
Researchers looked at data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s Nationwide Readmissions Database.
They studied more than 155,000 patients between 2010 and 2015 and found that 15.6 percent were readmitted at least once within six months of their original discharge.
Half of these readmissions were within 30 days from when they were first released.
Researchers found a few factors that raised the risk of readmission including: patients who are older, had severe injuries or had longer hospitals stays.
When it came to insurance, patients under Medicare were the most likely to be readmitted, followed by those under Medicaid.
A 2017 study also from Stanford found that patients under Medicaid, which covers people with low incomes, were most likely to end up in a hospital with a gun injury due to assault.
That wasn’t the case for patients under Medicare, mostly covering seniors and people with disabilities: one-fourth of them were victims of assault. Another fourth suffered self-inflicted injuries.
Researchers suspect Medicaid patients are poorer and more likely to be victims of attempted homicides while Medicare patients are more likely to commit self-inflicted injuries, such as suicide.
Patients who paid for their hospital costs out-of-pocket were the least likely to be readmitted for a gun injury, which Spitzer suggests may be because patients’ medical bills are so high that they either don’t have the funds or can’t face another hefty bill.
The average readmission charge for a patient paying out-of-pocket was more than $49,000, the study found.
‘Most live in zip codes where the population has incomes lower than average,’ Spitzer said. ‘We do not necessarily think their injuries are less severe. It could be that they don’t seek care in circumstances where other patients, who are covered by insurance, would take advantage of that health insurance.’
During the six-year period that the study covered, of the total $5.47 billion in hospitalization costs, Medicaid paid for $2.1 billion and Medicare contributed $89 billion.
Both private insurance companies and patients paying out-of-pocket each paid $1.1 billion.
The average bill for a patient with a gun injury amounted to $32,700 with readmission accounting for nearly 10 percent of the cost.
Spitzer said the findings don’t even cover costs patients face when they leave the hospital such as prescription medications and rehabilitation.