Two hospitals responsible for treating victims of June's Orlando nightclub shooting are writing off an estimated $5.5 million in medical bills.
For people like Mario Lopez, the news is an incredible relief. Lopez, 34, was grazed by a bullet during the attack and told the Orlando Sentinal that his bills were in excess of $20,000.
"I was so worried because I can't afford any of that," Lopez said. "I just went out for a fun night with friends. No one expected this to happen. My life was turned upside down, and then I had to worry about how I was going to pay back the hospital."
Lopez, like 44 million other Americans, has no health insurance. The shooting, a random act of violence, is a reminder of how no universal medical care can ruin people's lives, even of those who aren't involved in high-risk activity.
Orlando Health's main hospital, Orlando Regional Medical Center, treated 44 victims of the attack who needed immediate attention. Nine of those victims died, and their families won't be charged. Forty-nine people were killed in the shooting.
"The Pulse shooting was a horrendous tragedy for the victims, their families and our entire community," Orlando Health President and CEO David Strong told the Orlando Sentinel. "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."
An Orlando Health spokesperson did not immediately respond to A Plus' request for comment.
Orlando Health is using donations to victims funds, state and federal funds, private insurance, and Florida's crime victim compensation fund to help cover the costs.
In the wake of the shooting, the need for health care isn't the only thing that has been brought to light: A Plus also covered the news that gay men weren't able to donate blood to victims of the Pulse nightclub, a centerpiece of LGBT life in Orlando. That FDA policy was largely unknown to Americans before hundreds of LGBT men were turned away from donating blood after the tragedy.
For victims of the shooting, Orlando Health and Florida Hospital's decision is a taste of what life would be like with universal health care. After a tragedy like this, everyone could use one less thing to worry about.
(H/T: Orlando Sentinel)
Cover photo: Flickr / Fibonacci Blue