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Orlando Health Won’t Bill Victims For Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Mario Perez was grazed by a bullet inside Pulse Night Club. In addition to the physical and psychological recovery from that experience, he’s had another worry: The uninsured Miami resident was told his bill from Orlando Regional Medical Center would be $20,000.

Now, though, that bill has been forgiven.

“I’m pretty excited they’re willing to go ahead and do that, I know it’s a lot of money involved,” Perez said. “There was more than 49 of us that were in the hospital, so for them to do something like that and not charge us is amazing. That’s one headache I don’t have to worry about.”

Both Orlando Health and Florida Hospital have announced they will not charge patients from the Pulse Night Club shooting. Orlando Health, which got 44 of the shooting victims, said they will bill a patient’s insurance, but said they will not go after patients for out-of-pocket expenses.

Orlando Health expects more than $5 million in unreimbursed costs. Florida Hospital, which got 12 patients from Pulse, said it’s not charging patients – or insurers, or patients for follow-up care. That will cost the hospital about $525,000.

Ted Miller is a researcher who studies the costs of shootings at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. He said it used to be more common for hospitals to forgive bills during big tragedies, but these events have become more common. And that’s why people are moving toward victim compensation funds.

“The first mass shootings, employers, hospitals, all sorts of people said we’ll take care of it,” Miller said. “Now there have been so many of them that people are almost not responding as generously.”

Overall, the Pulse Night Club shooting is expected to cost upwards of $385 million dollars.

For Mario Perez, his physical recovery is moving along; he’s had a surgery to remove bullet fragments, done pro-bono, and is seeing a counselor. But sometimes at night, when he’s falling asleep, he’ll hear a gunshot, and see a white flash in front of his face.

“And I wake up all suffocated, and I get anxiety, so I have to get up and entertain myself with something until I fall asleep again because it just gets to me and I think about what happened that night,” Perez said.

Perez is planning to go back to work next week – the first time he’ll have gotten a paycheck since the shooting. He’s basically been living off donations, waiting for a distribution from the OneOrlando fund. In the meantime, he’s got a GoFundMe page that’s raised about $2,600.

WMFE is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.