RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
It's been eight weeks since the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead. While the club has remained closed, the site has become a temporary memorial where visitors can leave flowers and light candles. City officials are talking about purchasing the club and creating a permanent memorial. Here's Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer talking with NPR member station WMFE.
BUDDY DYER: At some point, I think the city needs to gain control, purchase the Pulse site and then make some determination with a lot of input on what a permanent memorial might look like.
SUAREZ: All but one of the 53 people injured in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando have left the hospital, and now the bills are arriving. From WMFE in Orlando, Abe Aboraya brings us this story about the estimated costs of the tragedy.
ABE ABORAYA, BYLINE: Mario Perez lives in Miami, but he was in Orlando June 11 for a housewarming party. Afterwards, they went to Pulse for Latin night. At 2 a.m., he heard gunshots loud.
MARIO PEREZ: And the minute he started shooting is when I got hit from the thigh, and I got grazed by a bullet. And my first instinct was, you know, fall to the floor, you know, that's what you were taught to do, you know.
ABORAYA: Gunshot after gunshot after gunshot, but then a break in the firing. Perez ran out the back. He hid inside of a nearby 7-Eleven until the paramedic showed up. He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. He was at the ER from 3 until 8 in the morning treated for his gunshot wound and some less serious injuries. His bill from that so far...
PEREZ: Twenty thousand. So that's what they quote. That's what they told me.
ABORAYA: And Perez has no health insurance. He's working for a temp agency, and he doesn't have coverage. Fifty-six people went to the hospital that night. Three patients spent two weeks in the intensive care unit, and as of Friday, one patient was still in the hospital in critical condition.
Ted Miller studies the cause of violent crime at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. He compares this in scope to the 2011 shooting of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 18 others in Arizona.
TED MILLER: I think the medical costs in this incident will be four to $7 million.
ABORAYA: That's the price for the lifetime medical costs for the survivors and the short-term medical bills for those who died in the hospital. That doesn't factor in if some of the most seriously injured will have more extensive long-term medical costs from a traumatic brain injury.
MILLER: It can bankrupt somebody. It could totally wipe them out.
ABORAYA: Orlando Regional Medical Center got 44 of the shooting victims. A hospital spokeswoman says some patients have health insurance. Some don't. The hospital says it has not issued bills while they figure out what to do. But she says the hospital expects unreimbursed costs of more than $5 million, and this is just medical bills. Factor in the cost of police response, lost work time, the loss quality of life for the disabled and the dollar value of those 50 lost lives, says Miller.
MILLER: The cost of that incident is going to be about 385 or $390 million.
ABORAYA: And Pulse shooting victim Mario Perez is calculating his personal costs. He's worried he's going to lose his job because the doctor says he can't work right now. He's grateful that millions of dollars have been raised to help victims, but his bills are arriving now.
PEREZ: God knows how long that's going to take. As long as it gets covered, then I'm fine. If they don't cover it, then I'm stuck.
ABORAYA: In the meantime, Perez started his own GoFundMe account. So far, it's only raised about $500. For NPR News, I'm Abe Aboraya in Orlando.
SUAREZ: This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, Health News Florida and Kaiser Health News.
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