“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,” Ken Alltucker writes over at USA Today. “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. ‘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. In New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that proof of coronavirus vaccination will be required to attend indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced a vaccination mandate for state employees and patient-facing health care workers at state hospitals, with an option to get weekly testing. According to CDC data, New York City is now considered a ‘high’ or ‘substantial’ COVID transmission area. 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. 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 data.’ Ken Alltucker, “Refuse to get a vaccine? You might be hit with expensive medical bills, employer mandates,” USA Today.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.