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Aurora victims face medical bills

Katie Medley and her son, Hugo, in Aurora, Colo.
Katie Medley and her son, Hugo, in Aurora, Colo.Associated Press

As horrific as last week's massacre in Aurora was, many of the victims benefited from excellent medical care they received from several nearby medical facilities.

But as the AP notes today, some of the victims "face another challenge when they get out of the hospital: enormous medical bills without the benefit of health insurance."

Members of the public, along with Warner Bros., the studio that released the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," have contributed nearly $2 million to help victims, though it's not clear how much of that will cover medical expenses. One family is raising money on its own online.

And three of the five hospitals treating victims said Wednesday they will limit or completely wipe out medical bills.

Some of the victims, however, still face a long recovery ahead and the associated medical costs -- without health insurance. There's no exact count of how many of them don't have insurance but statistics suggest many of them might not be covered.

Perhaps the most notable example is 23-year-old Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head during the attack, and who remains in critical condition. His wife, Katie Medley, wasn't in the theater, but she's now in the same hospital -- Katie gave birth on Tuesday to their baby boy, Hugo.

Caleb, however, does not have health insurance, and his medical bills may cost up to $2 million.

The Affordable Care Act will play a major role in helping some of the victims -- the law eliminates annual and lifetime caps -- and it's heartening to know some of the area hospitals will simply waive some or all of the victims' bills.

But until "Obamacare" is fully implemented, the underlying, systemic problems persist. There will, for example, still be families like the Medleys, who simply don't know how they'll afford their medical bills. And if Republicans destroy the health care law next year, the personal crises will continue for millions of families.

I suppose the bottom line is, it just pains me to think a madman can shoot dozens of innocent people, and his victims and their families won't just have to think about their physical and emotional recoveries, they'll also have to worry about medical bills they can't afford.

We're the only major democracy on the planet that would allow such circumstances, and if the GOP succeeds, in 2013, it'll stay this way indefinitely.