Posted on October 10, 2012

Shot Through the Heart and You’re to Blame: The Cost to Taxpayers of Black Violence in Chicago

Paul Kersey, SBPDL, October 9, 2012

Chicago Ideas Week  (CIW) is happening in the Second City this week. On Oct. 11, an interesting panel discussion will be held on how to keep illegal guns off the streets of Chicago. We already know that guns don’t kill people in Chicago; dangerous minorities do. That the source of the violence gripping Chicago is overwhelmingly from the black community isn’t worth mentioning; that white people are to blame for black (and brown) pulling the triggers is, of course, beyond doubt.

What won’t be brought up for discussion at this CIW panel event will be the cost of the violence that tax-payers absorb, in terms of medical care provided to the–almost always–black or brown victims of black or brown violence.

The Chicago Sun Times reported that a new “violence tax” (read: “the tax law-abiding whites must pay to own guns because black and brown people use illegal guns to shot one another”) is being considered in Cook County. It is in this story that yet another aspect of the sunk cost that black America represents is found [Cook County mulling violence tax on guns and ammunition, 10-9-12]:

Drawing the ire of the gun lobby, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle is eyeing a violence tax on guns and ammunition sold in the city and suburbs, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

“If we were to pursue a tax on something like guns and ammo, clearly that wouldn’t be popular with the [gun lobby] out there, and it may not generate $50 million, but . . . it is consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county,” Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, said on Monday.

“Now on top of that, if a person is shot and wounded, they end up more than likely in a Level 1 trauma Center like Stroger Hospital,” he said of the main taxpayer-funded county hospital.

The cost to treat a gunshot victim, without insurance, is pegged at $52,000, Summers said. And 70 percent of gunshot victims don’t have health insurance, he says.

$52,000 to treat a gunshot victim?And doctors and nurses at Stroger Hospital in Chicago, a taxpayer-funded county hospital, mend up black and brown victims of black and brown gun crime, with 7-out-of-10 of these victims not having health insurance?

Can we try and figure out how much the black and brown gang violence/mayhem is costing the taxpayers who fund the Stroger Hospital? Well, we can try and come up with an estimate of the Diversity Tax primarily white taxpayers pay to treat the targets–mostly gang members themselves–of bullets fired from the gun barrel that belongs to a black or brown gang member [In Chicago hospital, “collateral damage” of gang war never subsides, CBS NEWS, by Dean Reynolds, 7-9-12]:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday announced a new attack on gangs, including a plan to board up or tear down the abandoned buildings they use to run their operations. But the violence continues to take it’s toll, as CBS News learned from the front lines in a major hospital.

At the Cook County Trauma Center in Chicago’s Stroger Hospital, one ambulance after another delivers victims of the gang violence that just won’t stop.

In the midst of the mayhem is Dr. Fred Starr, who was in charge of the unit the weekend we visited.

“I’ve seen more people probably this year who have been caught in the crossfire, or you know, caught a stray bullet and that certainly is alarming,” Starr said. He said he’s angry at the violence adding, “When I see the children — I have two children of my own, and it certainly makes it very personal for me.”

The unit treats about 1,500 gunshots and stabbings a year.

Alright, for the sake of arguments, let’s assume that “stabbings” cost roughly the same to treat in Stroger Hospital. 70 percent of 1,500 is 1,050 stabbing/shooting victims treated who don’t have insurance (if we assume that those stabbed also lack health insurance at the same rate).

At $52,000 a pop to treat these individuals, you are looking at $54.6 million per year that the taxpayers who fund Stroger Hospital pay for the treatment of primarily black or brown gunshot/stabbing victims in Chicago.

This is but a microcosm of the Diversity Tax white people must pay in Black-Run America (BRA). And this is only one hospital in Chicago.


But what about the costs associated with caring for the gunshot victim after they leave the hospital (another courtesy of you, dear taxpayer)? Well, we have those statistics as well [The Cost of Crime: Perteet’s rehab journey, ABC 7 NEWS Chicago, 2-6-12]:

The emotional battle of a young gunshot victim in Chicago has been waged for two years now, but you may not realize his tragedy ends up costing us all.

His mom helps Ondelee Perteet limber up. He’s about to show how far he’s come since a bullet to the spine rendered him a quadriplegic.

He exercises at home now after two years of therapy at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. In Perteet’s case, like many others, Medicaid pays the bill. For this kind of injury, that easily reaches $250,000 and up.

It affects you as a taxpayer,” said Deetreena Perteet, Ondelee’s mother. “Your taxpayer money to care for him.”

Deetreena Perteet is painfully aware. She had to leave her job to become a full-time caregiver. Add her lost income to the equation.

University of Chicago’s Dr. Jens Ludwig has done extensive research on the cost of gun violence: the life-time of medical care, the chairs, the walkers, vehicles, income lost.

“Medical costs turn out to be just a small part of the larger picture,” Ludwig said. “The total cost to society on average per gunshot wound is on the order of $1 million per gunshot injury, total social costs.”

“The cost of these disabilities goes far beyond dollars, it moves into the realm of lost potential,” said Dr. Lisa Thornton of Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.

Where would Ondelee Perteet be headed were it not for what a young man with a gun did? That’s for wondering. What’s important, as Dr Thornton would say, is what happens in the now.


What about some other hospitals in Chicago that take care of primarily insurance-less black and brown, the victims of gangland violence? Here to provide the answer is the Medill Reports, a publication of the Medill School at Northwestern University [The costs of a bullet start mounting the moment the trigger is pulled, 2-10-2009]:

One emergency room physician looks at today’s victims of gun violence and sees 1944. World War II. The senselessness of young men shooting at each other.

The first tab in the ledger starts with the ambulance and emergency medical services. According to the Chicago Fire Department, a gunshot wound requires either what is called an Advanced Life Support 1 run or an ALS 2 run.

An ALS 1 run is $775; an ALS 2 run, which is reserved for more severe wounds, is $950.

The Fire Department also charges $14 a mile for transport to a hospital and an additional $100 for non-Chicago residents. This doesn’t even take into account the varying costs associated with first responders and other EMS personal.

The Fire Department bills the people they transport, but one official said the chance of the bill being paid is slim.

Mount Sinai Hospital on Chicago’s Southwest side admitted 1,779 patients to its trauma center in 2009. Thirty-five percent of those had been shot or stabbed.  On average, each gunshot victim that Mount Sinai treats, according to the hospital, costs an average of $12,000 to care for, with a majority of these patients uninsured or on Medicaid.

“From the second you walk in, to an ambulance, to care rendered to the patient, the supplies, the cost of anesthesia and surgery, [you’re being charged],” Mount Sinai Chief Financial Officer Chuck Weis said.  “And what we don’t even account for in [that number] is if they received any follow up rehabilitation.”

But with about 72 percent of its trauma victims being uninsured or relying on Medicaid or Medicare, the avenues a hospital can take to recoup the money spent on trauma care are few.

Compared to the state of Illinois, in 2008, just over 14 percent of people were without health insurance.

The Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act provides up to $27,000 in financial assistance, but you must meet certain requirements to be eligible.

Medicaid and Medicare both have pre-determined financial figures depending on the type of trauma case.  And for a hospital that relies so heavily on people qualifying for all three types of aid such as Mount Sinai, Weis said, receiving any type of compensation is a victory in itself.

“Self-pay [such as Medicaid] often becomes no-pay,” Weis said.  “And in many cases the individual that comes in won’t even cooperate with our financial department because they have no interest in doing so.  They know they’re gone in three days and that’s the last they’ll see of Mount Sinai.

In 2009, uncompensated care at Mount Sinai accounted for $35 million.

Just 10 miles to the north of Mount Sinai is another Level I trauma hospital, Illinois Masonic Medical Center.  On average, they see between 1,400 and 1,500 trauma victims a year. About 20 percent of those victims have been shot or stabbed. Similar to Mount Sinai, Illinois Masonic operates on the notion that it will end the year financially in the red.

“This is not a money-making venture,” said Sharon Ward, director of emergency trauma and EMS at Illinois Masonic.  “The best you can hope for is to break even.  Most trauma centers lose money and you know that going into the year.”

Despite tremendous obstacles these hospitals face in breaking even, nothing quite compares to the impact felt by the loved ones of gunshot victims.

“It’s horrifying, it’s literally horrifying,” DeLucia, the St. Louis physician, said.

“Families are hollering, crying, and here you have this young man.  One second, he’s healthy, having a good time, maybe going out to meet some friends or go to work, and then you’re calling the family to tell them to come to the ER.  Within a second, you’re telling them their [loved one is] dead or severely wounded. The family literally screams, cries and throws themselves to floor.  They’re in total disbelief.  It’s such a waste”

What a waste indeed. Of public resources that would have been better spent on repairing infrastructure of Chicago, cleaning up communities, building parks, and R&D style projects on such things as cheap renewable energy and public transportation.

All things that aren’t possible when you have to pay the Diversity Tax. Remember: this is just a glimpse into the cost of violence transferred to the taxpayer in Chicago.

One city.


But you will only find this story in Chicago, where black activists demanded that hospitals near areas populated with high concentrations of black people “have better emergency service”; a hilarious admission that these black-areas are communities in name-only [Protesters: U Of C Hospital Must Treat Gunshot Victims, CBS Chicago, 8-15-2011]:

Protesters camped out at the University of Chicago Medical Center on Monday, calling for better emergency care on the city’s South Side.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, on Aug. 14 of last year, community activist Damian Turner was hit by gunfire in a drive-by shooting at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. The 18-year-old was an unintended target.

The U of C Medical Center lies just a few blocks away. But because the hospital does not have a trauma center equipped to treat most gunshot victims, paramedics had to drive him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, about 10 miles away, in the Streeterville neighborhood.

There are four trauma centers in the city – Northwestern, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Stroger Hospital of Cook County, and Mt. Sinai Hospital. Pediatric units are housed at Mt. Sinai, the U of C’s Comer Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Currently, there is no adult trauma center on the South Side. Still, many in the medical community say Chicagoans — no matter where they live — are far from under-served.

In fact, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago area has more than 40 adult trauma centers. Compare that to neighboring Indiana, which has just seven to serve the entire state.

40 adult trauma centers in the Chicago area.


Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) will have panel after panel of speakers blaming some form of white privilege for the failure of black students in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system; a panel on why white flight contributes to high rates of crime in the city; and a panel on institutional racism keeping communities like 99 percent black Englewood from succeeding 

The panel that is sorely needed is the one that poses this question: Who will pay the Diversity Tax when white people vacate Chicago as they did Detroit? What about in 2040, when black and brown fecundity (combined) overwhelm the white majority of America and turn us into a plurality? Who pays it then?