Ah, yes, that ever-present 800 lb gorilla
Children's Hospital said Wednesday that it will forgive the unpaid medical bills for those they treated in the Aurora shooting - including co-pays and deductible-related expenses for those with health insurance.
Two adults remain hospitalized there, and three have been released. Children's treated five people, and one patient died.
"We are committed to supporting these families as they heal," the hospital said in a statement.
The other five area hospitals treating victims from the massacre last week were non-committal Wednesday on how they were going to handle the rising bills for those who remain hospitalized - particularly for the uninsured patients.
Most hospitals' financial chiefs declined to say how much they've spent so far, saying they were more concerned about making sure patients got top care in their recovery.
"Our chief concern is for the health and care of our patients and their families," said Linda Kanamine, a vice president at HealthOne, which operates the Medical Center of Aurora and Swedish Medical Center, both of which received theater victims.
HealthONE says it will limit or eliminate some charges based on the individuals or the patient circumstances.
In recent days, as patients continue to recover from injuries ranging from severe organ trauma to gunshot grazes and shrapnel wounds, it has become apparent that a handful of the victims are facing health insurance caps or did not have coverage at all.
Hand-crafted websites and Twitter accounts dedicated to victims of the Aurora shooting are popping up on Facebook pages and search engines, beseeching people for money for health care costs for the injured.
"Farrah was tragically, critically injured in the Colorado theater massacre," a page on the website "gofundme" says. The page tells the story of Farrah Soudani, who, according to the web, was injured in her leg and abdomen in the theater. "Farrah did not have health insurance, and her mother is going to be out of work for some time, to be at Farrah's side, and providing care after she is released from the hospital. Please give anything you can!"
Other families are holding press availabilities and pumping their companies for help to recoup costs. Earlier in the week, Warner Brothers donated a sizeable, undisclosed sum to the Aurora Relief Fund, where a panel of people will look at applications and needs and figure out how to best spend it.
State officials are also scrambling to put infrastructure in place to start helping people with immediate - and eventually - long term needs. Money at the state Office for Victims Programs comes from speeding tickets, restitution fees and some federal funds.
The needs for help are diverse - like lost wages for recovery, plane tickets for victims who want to come back and see court proceedings and retrofitting of homes if someone is permanently injured or disabled.
State rules usually limit an individual to $20,000 in assistance, but that will likely be lifted for Aurora victims, said Robert Gallup, a state administrator of the Victims Assistance office.
The state received about $2 million in federal dollars in addition to what they had in their coffers to help the victims of Columbine, Gallup said.
He doesn't know how much assistance the Aurora theater shooting will require, but it's likely that there are more victims who are uninsured because many are in their 20s or 30s, starting out in jobs at bars and restaurants.
Seth Medley's brother, Caleb, was critically shot in the theater last week and is being treated at University of Colorado Hospital.
Seth described the hospital bills for his brother as "insurmountable."
"I don't have a clear idea about it, but it's going to be tough," Seth Medley said.
Both Seth and Michael West, a close friend, said Caleb recently began a job at Target, but he didn't have health insurance.
Seth said, "He didn't think insurance was necessary." / end quote
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