CA hospitals have huge tab for treating gunfire victims

California is the most populous state in the nation, and as a result, its hospitals bear a significant bill for gun-related injuries.

The Golden State's hospitals racked up some $87.4 million in direct costs as the result of gunshot wounds in 2010, according to data from the Urban Institute.

The cost is significant even though gunshot wounds treated by hospitals average 14.3 per 100,000 people in California, slightly below the national average of 14.4 per 100,000, according to the report. And 17 percent of those injured by gunfire who wound up in the hospital lacked insurance.

Moreover, there is a huge gap among those who are most likely to find themselves confronting a bullet and likely never give it a thought. Among African-American males between the ages of 18 and 34, the hospitalized rate for gunshot wounds was an astonishing 683.2 per 100,000 Californians. That's more than 17 times the rate of their white male counterparts between the ages of 15 to 34, which was 40.3 per 100,000.

Children are also disproportionately the victims of gun fire. Gunshot wounds hospitalize 20 children throughout the country every day, according to a study published earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics.

Altogether, the nation's hospitals have spent some $16 billion to treat victims of gunfire between 2000 and 2008.

Hospitals could save money by potentially intervening in the communities where gun violence is the likeliest, according to the Urban Institute report.

"We know this kind of violence is highly concentrated in particular areas," Embry Howell, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told the San Francisco Chronicle. About half of that tab has been picked up by Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. "It's a time that you have a captive audience, at least, to try to find out what's happening in their lives to stop the pattern of violence."

To learn more:
- check out the Urban Institute study
- read the San Francisco Chronicle article