Two Orlando hospitals will not bill survivors of the mass shooting at the LGBT nightclub Pulse in Orlando for out-of-pocket medical expenses, officials announced on Wednesday.
Orlando Health and Florida Hospital have said they will instead write off an estimated $5.5 million or more in care, the majority of that falling on Orlando Health at around $5 million in expected absorbed costs.
“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.”
The shooting left 49 dead and dozens injured. Orlando Health’s main hospital, Orlando Regional Medical Center, treated 44 of the more than 50 people treated. They will also not charge the families of those who were treated but did not survive.
While Orlando Health will charge insurance companies of those with coverage, but they will take on whatever costs are not covered by those plans, said spokeswoman Kena Lewis.
Florida Hospital, which treated a dozen victims, will not even charge their insurance companies. They will also not charge for any follow-up surgeries that may be necessary.
Orlando Health said they will work with those who need follow-up surgeries.
“We can’t predict the future needs of these patients, their financial situations or what the state or federal governments may require us to do for charity policies,” Lewis said. “While we can’t assume the answer is free care forever, we will use our very generous charity and financial assistance policies to assess the best way” to help.
“It was incredible to see how our community came together in the wake of the senseless Pulse shooting,” said Daryl Tol, Florida Hospital’s president and CEO. “We hope this gesture can add to the heart and goodwill that defines Orlando.”
Survivor Mario Lopez said he was relieved to hear the news. He is uninsured and was facing a potential $200,000 bill he was not prepared to pay.
“I was so worried because I can’t afford any of that,” said Lopez, who was grazed by a bullet, with fragments exploding into his side. When he fell, he split his elbow on a shard of glass.
“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,” he said.
While his physical wounds are healing, he says the emotional impact stays with him.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Each day, I have my moments.”