Gun Violence Costs U.S. Healthcare $1B+ Annually

By John Commins

Gun violence in the United States was responsible for nearly 49,000 deaths in 2021, about 30,000 inpatient hospital stays, and 50,000 emergency department visits, generating more than $1 billion in medical costs, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.

In addition, the report notes that gun deaths generated $290 million in costs, about $6,400 per patient, with Medicaid and other government payers picking up the cost. Survivors of gunshot wounds are left with huge medical bills that average about $2,495 per person per month in the year after the injury.

Survivors are also more likely to develop mental health conditions and substance use disorders, areas in which the U.S. has poor outcomes, the report says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the 49,000 firearms death in 2021, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, was up from the 45,000 deaths reported in 2020. No other advanced industrialized country comes close. Firearms accounted for 10.4 deaths for every 100,000 people in the U.S. in 2019, five times greater than in the countries with the second- and third-highest death rates, France (2.2) and Switzerland (2.1).

The Urban Institute report also notes that:

  • Women are significantly more likely to be killed by a firearm in the U.S. than in other high-income countries.
  • The U.S. is the only high-income country where the number of civilian-owned guns exceeds the total number of people.
  • Medicaid, the program for low-income Americans that disproportionately enrolls people of color, pays most of the costs associated with hospital care for firearm injuries.
  • While Blacks comprise about 14% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 53% of firearms-related, inpatient hospital stays in 2016-17,  and 50% of the hospital costs that year.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.