It feels like a lifetime ago, but the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history happened on the first of the month. The families of the victims are picking up the pieces of their lives, and for the survivors, that means medical bills, disability insurance, and unemployment.
Kurt Fowler and his wife, Trina, were celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary at a country music festival when the shooting started. Fowler, 41, knew he'd been hit in the ankle and couldn't run. He hid under the stage until the gunfire ended.
"I knew my foot was completely useless," said Fowler, a firefighter from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and a father of three. He underwent surgery, spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and still may need another operation. He also will need rehabilitation and follow-up visits with a specialist.
Fowler has a Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO through his job, but he said he doesn't know how much he will have to pay out of his own pocket for the care he is receiving. In an era of higher deductibles and limited choice of in-network doctors, however, he knows he could face significant medical bills.
His insurance card says his individual deductible is $5,000 and his coinsurance 20%. He said he didn't know how much his health plan would cover for out-of-state care.
"Medical expenses are astronomical these days," Fowler said from his bed at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas. "It's a mountain that just doesn't seem like it's gonna be climbable, but we are gonna do our best."
As hundreds of survivors struggle to recover emotionally and physically from the Oct. 1 attack, they are beginning to come to terms with the financial toll of the violence perpetrated against them. Even those who are insured could face untold costs in a city they were only visiting.
The total costs of medical care alone could reach into the tens of millions of dollars, said Garen Wintemute, who researches gun violence at the University of California-Davis.
And that is just the beginning. Many survivors will be out of work for months, if they are able to return at all.
"We really don't have a good handle on the intangible costs of something like this ... the ripple effects on family and friends and neighborhoods when a large number of people have been shot," Wintemute said.
More than 100,000 people are shot every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That generates about $2.8 billion per year in emergency room and inpatient charges alone, according to a recent study in Health Affairs. The average emergency room bill for an individual gunshot victim is $5,254 and the average inpatient charge is $95,887, according to the study.
It costs a couple hundred bucks to buy a pistol in the US. It costs $100,000 on average to get shot by one, and that happens to 100,000 people a year.
The cost of the Second Amendment is in the billions, folks. It's an increasingly high price to pay and Republicans refuse to stem that tide of blood money.