Can gun owner insurance protect gunshot survivors?

Whenever there is a mass shooting, the headlines tell us how many have been killed. These body counts allow us to rank mass shootings: Robb Elementary (21 killed) was horrific, but not as bad as Sandy Hook (26 killed), which was worse than Parkland (17 killed). But what about the wounded survivors, who often outnumber the dead? In the 2002 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, for example, 12 people were killed but 58 were injured; in the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, 60 people were killed and at least 413 were injured.

Every day in the United States more than 300 people are shot and just over 200 of them survive their injuries, according to data compiled by Brady. That makes for 76,725 gunshot survivors per year. While the emotional trauma certainly takes its toll, the financial toll can be just as devastating. The luckiest survivors are patched up at the local emergency room for, on average, about $5,200 and sent home. The less fortunate require additional care—multiple surgeries, nursing home stays, rehabilitation treatment, physical therapy—for an average additional cost of about $179,000. Many survivors live the rest of their lives with physical limitations such as missing or disabled limbs, and they often require wheelchairs, modifications to their homes, and home care. Some end up permanently in nursing homes or residential treatment facilities, where the lifetime costs of their care run into the millions of dollars.

Some survivors, desperately relying on the kindness of strangers, set up GoFundMe campaigns to raise funds for their medical and other expenses. Survivors and families of those killed in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, for example, have 37 dedicated GoFundMe sites, which have collectively raised $6.7 million to date to cover medical treatment and memorial costs.

A 2017 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimated that the US spends $2.8 billion annually on medical treatment for gun violence survivors. Many survivors find themselves struggling with co-pays and deductibles if they are insured, and mountainous medical bills if they are not. An insured person who is shot could easily find that they are responsible for $20,000 of a $100,000 bill. Only 12 percent are able to pay their medical bills in full, according to the study. In any case, Americans subsidize the gun industry and gun owners by picking up these unpaid bills through our taxes or increased insurance premiums.

This approach to the medical needs of survivors of gun violence is cruel, irrational and unjust. A more reasonable and fairer model for paying such expenses is staring us in the face: automobile insurance. Americans have accepted the price we pay for living with cars, a cost of over 35,000 lives each year and millions of injured people. We have created an elaborate insurance system to make sure that the medical expenses of car injured people are not paid by the victims, but by the car owner community. As this system has evolved, insurance companies have developed different ways to assess the risk posed by each driver and adjust their payouts in the system accordingly. Men are more at risk than women. Teenagers are more at risk than middle-aged drivers. Those with speeding tickets are more at risk than those with clean driving records. Porsche drivers are at higher risk than Volvo owners.

It’s easy to imagine an analogous system that would pool the risks posed by gun owners and aim to ensure that innocent victims of gun violence don’t pay insurmountable bills as punishment for the misfortune of being in the country wrong at the wrong time. Under such a system, older gun owners with clean records would pay lower insurance rates than 18-year-olds, and people with multiple guns would pay more than those with a single gun. And just as insurance companies offer discounts to those who take defensive driving classes, they may also offer discounts to gun owners who have attended firearm safety classes, or who can demonstrate that they carry their guns. locked in the house.

The assumption that most American gun owners would never allow this infringement on their liberties finds a counterpoint among automobile owners, who generally do not view mandatory auto insurance as intolerable, or as a sign that the government will take their cars. Except for a small minority who drive illegally without insurance, they may complain about their insurance rates, but they admit that a system for pooling the costs of risk is far better than a world where one mistake – made by yourself or another driver. — can lead not only to total car and hospital stays, but financial ruin. Auto insurance is also designed to absorb the residual risk caused by those who refuse to insure their cars or let their policies lapse temporarily. Insurance distributes these liabilities fairly and mitigates the risks of driving. Such a system, driven by market institutions rather than government, could do the same for gun owners and the more than 200 Americans who are shot and live every day — people who don’t deserve to pay the price for someone else. mistake.

Gun owners have managed to externalize the medical costs of gun ownership onto the rest of us.

This is not a proposal for gun control, but a proposal to more fairly distribute the costs of America’s love affair with guns. It could also have beneficial implications for gun safety: By raising the costs of gun ownership, it could encourage Americans to buy fewer guns. And it could encourage gun owners seeking rebates to take more gun safety courses or buy gun safes for their homes, where some 4.6 million minors live with unsafe guns.

The provision of arms probably would not have averted the massacre of Uvalde or Buffalo. But it could mitigate the other 99 percent of gun accidents and violence in this country. If Americans have really decided, as a matter of principle, that they want to live in a society with more guns than people and few restrictions on who can own them, then the least we can do is make fair provisions for the innocent who will inevitably suffer the consequences of this choice.

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