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No medical bills for some Colo. shooting victims

DENVER – Three hospitals taking care of people wounded in the Colorado theater shooting said Wednesday they will limit or completely wipe out medical bills for the victims.

Some victims, many of them young, are uninsured and face mounting hospital bills.

Children’s Hospital Colorado announced it would use donations and its charity care fund to cover the medical expenses of the uninsured. For those who have insurance, the hospital said it will waive all co-pays for shooting victims it is treating.

“We are committed to supporting these families as they heal,” according to a statement from the hospital, which treated six shooting victims.

HealthOne, which owns the Medical Center of Aurora and Swedish Medical Center, also says it will limit or eliminate charges based on the individual circumstances of the patients. Those hospitals have treated 22 shooting victims.

There was no immediate word on what the other two hospitals would to do.

The victims still face a long recovery ahead and the associated medical costs – without health insurance. And HealthOne cautioned that its policy may not apply to all doctors working in its hospitals.

The public, along with Warner Bros., the studio that released the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises,” have contributed almost $2 million to help victims pay their bills. One family is raising money on its own online.

There’s no count of how many of the victims have no health insurance. But statistics suggest many of them might not be covered.

Nearly one in three Coloradans, or about 1.5 million, either have no health insurance or have coverage that is inadequate, according to a 2011 report by The Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.

The highest uninsured rate was among adults between 18 and 34. Many of those injured in the shootings are in that age group.

State officials said they are not sure whether any of the victims qualify for emergency Medicaid assistance available to patients in need. Victims also could get financial assistance from a state program that helps people hurt during crimes.

Among the uninsured victims of the movie-theater attack is 23-year-old aspiring comic Caleb Medley, who is in critical condition with a head wound and whose wife, Katie, gave birth to their first child, Hugo, on Tuesday.

His family and friends said they have set a goal of raising $500,000 to cover his hospital bills and other expenses and were nearly halfway there Wednesday.

Hospitals are required by federal law to stabilize patients during emergencies without regard to their ability to pay.

“The issue most probably facing the hospitals and patients in a situation like Aurora is what comes after ‘stabilization,’ ” said Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and a frequent critic of excessive medical costs.

“Many of these people I assume will need prolonged and expensive rehabilitation after their immediate injuries are dealt with, and that seems precisely what hospitals today are less and less willing to cover out of their own funds, and no law requires that they do so, as far as I am aware,” he said.

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