November 19, 2020

At Warren, Maloney, and Kelly Request, Independent Watchdog Agrees to Evaluate Federal Health Care Costs Associated With Firearm Injuries

Response from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) here

Lawmakers Initial Request to GAO here

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Oversight and Reform Committee member, released the following statement regarding the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) announcement  that it would examine the medical costs associated with gun violence in the United States, following their request. 

"We have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to put an end to the gun violence epidemic that is tearing our communities apart. The GAO's agreement to examine health care costs associated with gun violence is a good step towards confronting and addressing this crisis," said the lawmakers. 

The gun violence epidemic represents a significant public health problem. Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are killed by guns, and nearly 70,000 others suffer gun-related injuries. Guns are also the leading method of attempted suicide in the United States, resulting in death approximately 85 percent of the time. Rates of gun violence in America are also significantly higher than in comparable nations, with a gun suicide rate that is almost ten times higher than that of other high-income countries, and a gun homicide rate that is approximately 25 times higher. 

Despite the escalating rates of gun violence, there are few comprehensive studies of the health care costs associated with gun-related injuries. Studies of the immediate medical costs of gun violence have found that gun-related injuries cost $2.8 billion in emergency department and inpatient hospital costs each year and that the largest share of these costs-nearly 35 percent-is borne by taxpayers via Medicaid. 

However, existing studies do not capture the longer-term medical costs of gun injuries-such as readmissions, rehabilitation, long-term care, physical therapy, behavioral health services, personal care, and disability-that fall on American taxpayers. One study noted: "Although firearm-related injuries are a major public health concern with significant financial consequences, research in this area has been limited as a result of a lack of funding."

At the lawmakers' request, GAO has agreed to analyze existing health care data to estimate the prevalence and costs associated with initial hospital visits for firearm injuries. GAO will also conduct a literature review and convene an expert panel virtually to assess the costs of longer-term health care services associated with firearm injuries, as well as the state of existing research on the costs of these services-including limitations and gaps in existing research.