But insurers could try to do more, like penalizing the unvaccinated. And there is a precedent. Already, some policies do not cover treatments resulting from risky behavior that insurance companies deem risky, such as scuba diving and escalation.
The Affordable Care Act allows insurers charge smokers up to 50% more than non-smokers pay for certain types of health plans. Four-fifths of U.S. states follow this protocol, although most employer plans do not do it. In 49 states, people caught driving without car insurance face fines, confiscation of their car, loss of their license and even jail. And reckless drivers pay more for their insurance.
The logic behind the policies is that the behavior of offenders can harm others and costs society a lot of money. If a person decides not to get the vaccine and contracts a bad case of Covid, they’re not just exposing others in their workplace or neighborhoods; the tens or hundreds of thousands spent on their care could means higher premiums for others also in their insurance plans next year. In addition, epidemics in areas with low vaccination rates could help reproduce more vaccine resistant variants that affect everyone.
Yes, we often cover people whose habits may have contributed to their illness – insurance regularly pays for drug and alcohol detox and cancer treatment for smokers.
This may be one of the reasons why insurers have so far also favored carrots over sticks to get people vaccinated. Some private insurers offer people vaccinated with credit for their medical premiums, or gift cards and raffle prizes, depending on American Health Insurance Plans, an industry organization.
Hard love might be easier if the Food and Drug Administration gives the vaccines full approval, rather than the current emergency use clearance. Even so, taxpayer-funded plans like Medicaid and Medicare must treat everyone the same and would encounter a lengthy process to get federal waivers to experiment with incentives, according to Larry Levitt, executive vice president of KFF, an organization. nonprofit focused on health issues. (Kaiser Health News, where Rosenthal is editor, is a program under KFF.) These programs cannot charge different rates to different patients in a state.
KFF vote shows that such incentives are of limited value anyway. Many refractories say they will only be vaccinated if their employer requires it.