Insurers Could Make the Unvaccinated Think Twice

Authors suggest financial penalties instead of only incentives
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2021 12:19 PM CDT
Maybe Insurers Could Make Unvaccinated Pay
Bradley Sharp, of Saratoga, N.Y., gets the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday from RN Stephanie Wagner. He got the shot because his college requires it.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Reckless drivers pay more for auto insurance. Smokers pay more for some health plans. Treatment for injuries suffered when hang-gliding or participating in other dangerous activities isn't always covered. Nearly all newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients have decided against being vaccinated, while the bills for their care reach astronomical heights. So in an opinion piece in the New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal and Glenn Kramon pose a question: "Why should patients be kept financially unharmed from what is now a preventable hospitalization, thanks to a vaccine that the government paid for and made available for free?"

Like governments, insurers have so far offered incentives rather than penalties to encourage vaccinations. That may not work with those people determined to avoid the shots. One nonprofit's poll found many won't agree to be vaccinated unless their employer requires it. But insurers could change the economic dynamics. "If patients thought about the price they might need to pay for their own care," the authors say, "maybe they would reconsider remaining unprotected." The NFL, for example, will dock players if there's a COVID-19 outbreak on their team among unvaccinated players that requires cancellation of a game. That sort of thinking could catch on. "A harsher society," Rosenthal and Kramer write, "might impose tough penalties on people who refuse vaccinations and contract the virus." Read the full piece here. (More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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