Refuse to get a vaccine? You might be hit with expensive medical bills,
employer mandates, Ken Alltucker.
People who choose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus face
greater odds of getting seriously ill and hospitalized – a decision that
could risk not just their health, but their finances as employers
mandate vaccination and insurance companies look at ways to pass on the
costs of treatment.
More than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
And because 41% of eligible Americans have not yet been fully immunized
against the virus, some are pushing a new tactic – making the
unvaccinated pay a larger share of their medical bills.
Advocates of the pocketbook approach say tens of millions of Americans
who refuse vaccination make it riskier for everyone else, including kids
who are not old enough to get vaccinated and have filled hospitals in
some states. Taxpayers are on the hook for $178 billion in federal funds
allocated to hospitals and health-care providers. Insurance premiums
could rise across the board.
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"There's a very clear line we can draw between (refusing) vaccination
and getting COVID severe enough to put you in the hospital," said
Jonathan Meer, an economics professor at Texas A&M University.
"The unvaccinated are essentially asking for a handout, a subsidy for
their stance, and that’s cheap talk. Standing up for your beliefs means
being willing to take the consequences of them," he said.
Some health insurers already are sharing the financial pain with those
sick enough to be hospitalized.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey last November found that 88% of people
had health insurance plans that shielded COVID-19 patients from
copayments, coinsurance or annual deductibles that might require
families to spend $2,800 or more before coverage kicks in.
Now that vaccines are free and available to all Americans 12 and older,
insurers have scaled back those waivers.
Insurers eliminated pandemic perk
Major insurers such as Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and UnitedHealth Group
discontinued fee waivers as vaccines became widely available, as first
reported by Kaiser Health News. Humana still covers out-of-pocket costs
for older adults on its Medicare plan, but the insurer does not shield
out-of-pocket costs for those covered by employer-sponsored plans.
Experts say patients hospitalized with COVID-19 could face significant
bills as a result –and those patients are mainly the unvaccinated.
Immunized people rarely are hospitalized with breakthrough infections,
according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state and federal
"Now you probably will have to pay a lot of money if you get
hospitalized," said Cynthia Cox, a vice president and director for the
Kaiser Family Foundation's program on the Affordable Care Act. "That’s a
very direct cost to people because of their lack of vaccination."
Still, some doubt the prospect of high medical bills will persuade many
vaccine resisters to get immunized.
"The person who is holding out against the vaccine doesn’t have the same
risk-benefit calculation as someone who gets the vaccine," said Erin
Fuse Brown, director of the Center for Law, Health & Society at Georgia
State College of Law. "They think the chances they are seriously going
to be affected by COVID are pretty small to begin with."
Yes! Those who won't vaccinate should be screwed in every way possible.
It's the American way.