Orlando Health and Florida Hospital will not bill survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre for out-of-pocket medical expenses, officials announced Wednesday. Instead, the hospitals will write off an estimated $5.5 million or more in care.
"The pulse shooting was a horrendous tragedy for the victims, their families and our entire community," Orlando Health President and CEO David Strong said. "During this very trying time, many organizations, individuals and charities have reached out to Orlando Health to show their support. This is simply our way of paying that kindness forward."
Its main hospital — Orlando Regional Medical Center — treated 44 of the more than 50 victims who needed immediate medical attention from the June 12 attack that killed 49 people. The nightclub is only a couple of blocks from the Level 1 trauma center.
This news is being celebrated — and it's welcome news, and I'm happy for the victims and their families — but let's not kid ourselves: this is a feel bad story disguised as a feel good story.
There are people who were shot in Orlando around the same time, maybe even on the same night (this is America), who are also facing crushing medical bills. But their bills won't be forgiven because they didn't win an extremely perverse lottery. They weren't lucky enough to be the victims of a mass shooting—or the victims of this particular mass shooter, I should say. Victims of past mass shootings that failed to elicit the same outpouring of sympathy and support didn't see their medical bills forgiven and victims of future mass shootings won't either. So the lesson for all Americans is this: If you get shot in the United States... be careful to get shot in the right time, and in the right place, and by the right maniac. Or you're on your own.
If I were an assignment editor at the Orlando Sentinel I would be sending reporters out to find people who were shot around the same night and treated in the same hospitals but whose medical bills aren't being forgiven. This being America, guns being guns, and men being toxic, odds are good more than one woman was shot in a parking lot by an estranged boyfriend or husband and rushed to Orlando Health or Florida Hospital that same week. How will they pay their medical bills? How aggressively are these hospitals going after them for payment? How devastated our their families?
Lynn Herriott was shot six times by her abusive ex-fiancé in Jacksonville, Florida, the day after the shootings at Pulse. She survived. A fundraising campaign to help Herriott "with medical bills and expenses" raised just $3,200, nowhere near it's 15K goal. Millions and millions of dollars were raised for the victims of the shooting at Pulse—and, to be clear, I'm glad that people donated to help the victims of Pulse and the victims and families of the Pulse massacre deserved our support. But what about Herriott and the hundreds of others like her who were shot and wounded in the week after the Pulse massacre? Are they less deserving of our support? Are they less deserving of Orlando Health President and CEO David Strong's kindness?
The news out of Orlando this morning shouldn't make us feel good. It should make us feel bad. It is an indictment of our society, an indictment of our health care system, an indictment of each and every one of us. Because we don't care enough about shooting victims to do something about guns and we don't care enough about shooting victims — or people with cancer, or children with broken bones, or our fellow citizens at the end of their lives — to create an equitable health care system that doesn't bankrupt and destroy families by design for the crime of getting sick or the crime of getting shot in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and by the wrong maniac.