(Chicago Tribune) The charges started racking up the moment Annette Johnson arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital with a gunshot wound to her left forearm.
Doctors sliced open Johnson’s arm and installed a $500 metal plate to shore up her shattered ulna, securing it with numerous bone screws that cost $246 apiece. There were morphine drips to quell pain, tetanus shots to prevent infection, blood screens and anesthesia.
Two years earlier in a different part of the city, Leo Leyva arrived at a North Side hospital with a gunshot wound to his back. His last memory before going under anesthesia was a nurse telling him they were going to take good care of him and to count up to 10.
As the 18-year-old drifted off, the emergency room team at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center went to work to save his life, starting IV lines and X-raying his chest and abdomen before performing an emergency surgery to remove the bullet and repair the damage.
For both Johnson and Leyva, just two of the thousands of gunshot victims in Chicago every year, the first hours and days of their hospital treatment were only the start of what would be costly recoveries that continue to this day.
Still, the bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000.
An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune reveals that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars each year. And those costs are rising.
The data — obtained by the Tribune after months of negotiation with public officials — show that Chicago-area hospitals billed more than $447 million to treat some 12,000 documented victims of gun violence in the city between 2009 and mid-2016.
And even that figure represents just a fraction of the total billed. While the hospitals charge for room and board as well as equipment and drugs, the surgeons, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals who treat gunshot victims in emergency rooms across the city typically bill separately.
The data show that the victims who bear the physical and emotional scars of being shot live mostly in economically depressed and racially segregated neighborhoods. But the financial burden of caring for survivors of gunshot wounds extends well beyond neighborhood boundaries, according to the Tribune analysis.
In fact, patients who live in poverty and are insured through the publicly funded Medicaid and Medicare programs account for nearly half of the costs analyzed by the Tribune. Continue Reading
Article Org: chicagotribune.com