They were fortunate enough to survive a gunman’s rampage that killed 49 others at an Orlando nightclub. But in the weeks following the June 12 massacre at Pulse, many survivors who needed medical treatment found themselves living another nightmare. Besides haunting memories, they suffered debilitating injuries that required painful surgeries and ongoing care. Some were uninsured. Now, Orlando hospitals are offering relief. Orlando Health and Florida Hospital announced Wednesday they will forgive an estimated $5.5 million in unpaid medical bills, the Orlando Sentinel reports. "We hope this gesture can add to the heart and goodwill that defines Orlando," says Florida Hospital CEO Daryl Tol. NPR reported last month that when long-term care is factored in, medical bills of Pulse survivors could reach $390 million.
Blocks away from the nightclub, Orlando Regional Medical Center treated 44 shooting victims. One survivor remains hospitalized there. The hospital, run by Orlando Health, will bill insurance companies but cover any remaining costs, a spokeswoman said. The families of nine people who died there will not be sent a bill. Florida Hospital said it won’t bill the insurance companies of the dozen club-goers treated there, and all future care will be covered as well. Survivors welcomed the news. "I was so worried because I can't afford any of that," Mario Lopez tells the Sentinel. Lopez, 34, was hit with bullet fragments on the left side and has no insurance to cover a $20,000 ER bill. "It’s a huge relief." (Read more Orlando stories.)