By John David Powell
Their faces still haunt us from our paper and cyber pages, even as the days turn into weeks since that awful night at the movies. Most of us probably do not know their names; we probably could not pick them out of a list. Even those of us who have written about them may only remember a name or two. And we only know who they were – no, who they are – from the stories told by relatives and friends.
For some reason, and it may just be me, but for some reason I can tell almost by looking that a particular photo is a picture of person whose life is now frozen in time. Maybe it is the eyes, the windows to the soul. They speak to us, they hold us in their eternal gaze, and they insist that we not forget what happened to them on that extraordinary summer evening in Colorado when scores of victims saw their night turn from allegory to agony, to a personal battle between life and death.
This weekend we learned sadly the struggle for survival does not always end well. We learned Ashley Moser, a 25-year-old pregnant victim, shot in the neck and abdomen, lost her unborn child. Her 6-year-old daughter Veronica died during emergency surgery. She was the youngest victim, until the death of her unborn sibling. Argue about the beginning of life some other time.
A statement from the family thanked everyone for their prayers and support. It ended by pointing out Ashley’s “lifetime of care will be a long road."
All of those who survived their wounds face huge medical bills. Many, like Ashley, will have more medical expenses in the recovery years ahead.
Like Petra Anderson, who was shot in the head. Her family has raised more than $175,000, but they know her bills will be a lot higher.
Like Caleb Medley, also shot in the head, suffering from brain damage and the loss of his right eye. He is in critical condition in a medically induced coma. His family has raised about half of the $500,000 they say they will need just to cover his hospital stay. That amount does not include the cost for the birth of his son, born a few days after the shooting in the same hospital where he is recovering. Another extraordinary event.
The Medleys do not have medical insurance. No one knows for sure how many victims have no coverage, but there is a good chance many do not. A healthcare advocacy group, The Colorado Trust(www.coloradotrust.org), figures almost 1.5 million Coloradans have no or inadequate coverage. That is nearly one-third of the people who live in the state.
And the highest uninsured rate, according to the group, is for those between the ages of 18 and 34, the age of folks most likely to attend a midnight showing of a summer blockbuster.
Some of the victims might qualify for emergency Medicaid assistance. There also is a chance some victims could get help from a state program for people injured during crimes.
Children's Hospital Colorado (www.childrencolorado.org), will use donations to cover the expenses of the uninsured victims it treated. HealthOne (www.healthonecares.com), will cap or eliminate expenses at its two hospitals that treated victims.
Denver Health Medical Center (www.denverhealth.org) and University of Colorado Hospital(www.uhc.edu), have not said what they will do. They already provide millions in free health care, an amount that came to around $750 million in 2011.
Private donations and a contribution from Warner Brothers (www.warnerbros.com), the studio that released “The Dark Knight Rises”, have brought in almost $2 million for the victims. Some, or all, may go for medical bills.
In the days following the shootings, some of the regulars down at Sparky’s Diner pointed out Colorado taxpayers already shell out tens of millions to cover the costs to treat everything from minor ailments to organ transplants for illegal aliens. If those hospitals write off the cost to treat the victims of Aurora, so the reasoning went, they will have to cover the costs to treat any illegal alien that walks in the door, or else face charges of discrimination.
FAIR, the Federation for Immigration Reform (www.fairus.org), put out a report in 2008 (http://www.fairus.org/site/
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state-funded uncompensated outlays for health care for Colorado's illegal aliens came to more than $82 million a year.
No one disagreed that uncompensated care for illegal aliens is a big problem for Colorado and for border states like Texas. But there was no anger in the comment, just a statement of fact. And there was no anger in the comeback, just another statement of fact.
We are a big country with a big heart, someone said, adding that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary responses.
John David Powell writes his Lone Star Award-winning columns from ShadeyHill Ranch in Texas.