Maloney and Warren Request GAO Review of Health Care Costs of Gun Violence

Feb 4, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 4, 2020)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, sent a letter asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the total annual medical costs associated with gun violence in the United States. 

“The gun violence epidemic is one of the most pressing public health crises facing our nation.  Each year, more than 30,000 people in the United States are killed by guns, and nearly 70,000 others suffer gun-related injuries,” wrote Maloney and Warren.  “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 the United States are significantly higher than in comparable nations.  Americans are much more likely to be killed by gun violence than people in other high-income countries.  Our gun suicide rate is almost 10 times higher than in other high-income countries, and our gun homicide rate 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 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.” 

In 2017, there were nearly 40,000 gun deaths—the highest level in at least 50 years.  According to one estimate, there were nearly 200 mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and 2018, resulting in at least 1,957 people being shot.   

Last September, Chairwoman Maloney, then-Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, chaired a hearing, “Gun Violence in America: Understanding and Reducing the Costs of Firearm Injuries and Deaths,” which examined the larger economic impacts of gun violence. Based on existing data, Committee Democratic Staff found that gun violence costs the country $200 billion per year, which is about 1.4 percent of GDP.

In their letter today, Maloney and Warren asked GAO to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how the medical costs of gun violence are borne by federal health care programs, particularly Medicaid and Medicare.

Click here to read today’s letter.

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116th Congress