Could Health Insurance Cost More for the Unvaccinated?

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As COVID case numbers tick up again, but most people who are being hospitalized are among the unvaccinated, some people are floating the idea that health insurance companies could or should charge a premium for anyone who doesn't get the shot.

"They do charge more for smokers, but that's really the exception and not the rule," said Brandeis University's Michael Doonan, the executive director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum.

Doonan said it would be difficult to charge a premium on an individual basis while the vaccines are under emergency use authorization -- even though the unvaccinated are costing insurers more.

"Unequivocally, people who have not had their vaccinations for COVID cost more money," said Doonan, "then you have more hospitalizations, and more deaths."

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Ala., on Friday blamed those who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine for the state’s latest outbreak.

But, Doonan said, those increased insurance costs will likely be recouped another way -- through employers.

"Companies who are negotiating with insurance companies, if they have a whole bunch of employees who are unvaccinated and their costs go up this year, next year their premiums are going to go through the roof," Doonan said.

"It's wrong, it's totally wrong," said Tony Medina of Worcester.

Jibrael Younis, also from Worcester, said, "I could see it happening because there has been a precedent for it. Do I agree with it? Not necessarily."

The strongest earthquake to hit southern New England in decades rattled homes on Sunday morning, and it may have you wondering about whether you are covered for damages if there’s a bigger one down the road.

But if premiums were charged for being unvaccinated, would it increase vaccination rates? People are torn over that too.

"Yeah. because people are cheap, and they don't want to have to pay that fee," said Mikayla Dobson of Worcester.

Karen Yalian of Worcester said, "I think people are set in their minds and they probably wouldn't care if they had to be charged more."

Doonan said that, instead of increasing premiums, insurance companies or employers may give incentives to get vaccinated -- like we've seen health departments do with freebies and gift card giveaways.

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