The rising costs of choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Healthcare analysts say that getting COVID-19 is more expensive than ever. There are also growing costs associated with remaining unvaccinated on principle or for political reasons.

For example, early in the pandemic employers might have given more paid-time-off for COVID-19 infections or quarantines. But now if you are unvaccinated without a key exemption, like a disability or sincere religious reason, and then you get COVID-19, you are more likely to have to use up your PTO and potentially go unpaid during treatment.

That is just one financial squeeze put on people going without the shot.

Another example, starting Nov. 1, unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees who have health insurance from the company will face $200 monthly surcharges. The policy could be expanded to other industries that were once-buoyed by the discretion of health insurance companies at the start of the pandemic.

According to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, earlier in the pandemic, the vast majority of people enrolled in fully-insured private health plans nonetheless would have had their out-of-pocket costs waived if they were hospitalized with COVID-19.

But now, 72% of the two largest insurers in each state and dc are no longer waiving these costs, and another 10% of plans are phasing out waivers by the end of October, according to the brief published by Peterson-KFF.

Attorney Brittany Barrientos specializes in OSHA compliance at Stinson LLP. She said there lies a balance in encouraging employees to play it safe infection-wise, while also avoiding rules that are so strict that it disincentivizes disclosures of COVID-19 cases.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say ‘I think it’s allergies.’ Well check anyways, it’s probably not allergies or it may not be allergies. But that just really underscores the complexities of this and really lay out an intentional and vetted policy,” Barrientos said during a presentation the KC Chamber of Commerce.

That leads to the question. If unvaccinated individuals are required to test for COVID-19 weekly, who is paying for those tests as time moves forward and insurance companies potentially start denying those claims?

“Who’s paying the costs? Specifically, who’s paying for the costs of the tests for people who can’t be or don’t want to be vaccinated. And do you have to pay for the time spent being tested? This is a gray area,” Molly Keppler, an attorney specializing in business litigation for Stinson LLP, said.

That issue will likely play out in the courts.

It is also worth noting that when hospitals reach capacity it is more likely a patient will have to be taken farther away for treatment, likely at an out-of-network hospital, compounding possible costs for patients.

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