Let’s send a collective hurrah to the leaders of some big hospitals in Orlando, Fla., for declining to bill victims they treated after the June mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Instead, the hospitals will write off an estimated $5.5 million in care costs.
As the chief of the Orlando Health system observed: “The Pulse shooting was a horrendous tragedy for the victims, their families and our entire community. During this very trying time, many organizations, individuals and charities have reached out to Orlando Health to show their support. This is simply our way of paying that kindness forward.”
The hospital system treated 44 of more than 50 shooting victims who needed care; 49 people were killed in the assault by a lone madman; the shooting occurred blocks from hospitals with trauma centers−proving life-saving to many wounded victims.
Orlando Health has said it will bill insurers for victims with coverage; the hospital system will absorb any costs not covered and for those uninsured. Florida Hospital, which also treated dozens of the shooting victims, has said it will not bill victims, nor insurers, and will cover follow-up procedures they need.
The compassion shown by the Florida hospitals, of course, provides a stark contrast to the avarice, say, of some Nebraska counterparts. I’ve written about how these hospitals have hounded the poor with collection agenices and court actions for unpaid bills as low as $60.
The Florida incident also reinforced the enormous damage that high-powered, automatic weapons can inflict on shooting victims. Too many ignorant Americans may have watched too many movie or broadcast fictions, in which characters fall over and die painlessly or they miraculously recuperate, fully, from severe gunshot wounds in 90-seconds worth of commercials. The reality is much uglier, brutal, and long-lasting. Unconvinced? Just ask ER staff, surgeons, and rehabilitation experts in Washington, D.C., about the gruesome toll they see from unceasing gun violence.
One of the Orlando victims, who was grazed by bullets and had fragments fall on his body and explode, spent seven hours in emergency care for those wounds, plus care for a gash on his elbow when he fell. He was uninsured. The potential cost for his urgent treatment: more than $20,000.
Fortunately, he will be among the beneficiaries of the Orlando hospitals’ decision to waive victims’ bills.