The cost of going unvaccinated in America is rising for employees, companies

Nearly a year after COVID vaccines became available in the United States, a quarter of American adults are unvaccinated and a picture of the economic cost of hesitating vaccines is emerging. It indicates financial risk for individuals, companies and publicly funded programs.

Vaccination is likely to already cost tens of billions of dollars in preventable hospital admissions and up to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, say public health experts.

For individuals who risk vaccination, the risk may include redundancies and inability to collect unemployment, higher social security contributions, rising out-of-pocket medical costs or loss of academic grants.

For employers, vaccine hesitation can lead to fewer jobs. For taxpayers, this could mean a financial burden on programs like Medicare, which provides healthcare for the elderly.

Some employers are trying to get unvaccinated workers to exceed the risk premium, not unlike how smokers can be required to pay higher health care costs. One airline said it would charge unvaccinated workers an extra $ 200 a month in insurance.

“When the vaccines came out, it seemed like everyone wanted one thing and the big question was how long would it take to meet the demand,” said Kosali Simon, a professor of health economics at the University of Indiana. “It did not occur to me that a year later we would look at the cost of people not wanting the vaccines.

Alicia Royce, a 38-year-old special education teacher in Coachella, California, declined to receive the COVID vaccine or let her two vaccinated children receive it. Royce’s parents received the injection but she has been worried about issues including reports of side effects.

The decision puts Royce in a vulnerable position. Her school, like others in California, launched a vaccination mandate for staff last year. Royce currently has a religious exemption and takes COVID tests twice a week before entering the classroom. The situation has led to her family moving to Alabama, where schools have not established a power of attorney, after the school year.

“I get paid less,” said Royce, who expects to receive a $ 40,000 pay cut a year. “But I’m moving for my own personal freedom to choose.”

Preventive care, billions in costs

By the time the pandemic reaches its third year, the number of US patients in hospital with COVID is close to the 17-month low. Most Americans are vaccinated and the country is recovering from normal teaching, even as authorities predict an increase in BA.2 infections.

Yet when millions return to offices, public transportation and other social settings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures show that nearly 25% of adults in the United States have not been fully vaccinated, and the latest data suggest many stations will not fluctuate easily: People looking for the first COVID vaccine in the United States have dropped to a 14-month low.

Vaccines have proven to be a powerful tool against the virus. CDC figures from the Delta wave of 2021 found that unvaccinated Americans were four times more likely to become infected and almost 13 times more likely to die from COVID. The difference was even greater for those who received stimulus shots, which were 53 times less likely to die from COVID. Less than half of the country’s vaccinated population has so far received stimulants.

In a December study, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which monitors U.S. health policies and findings, estimated that between June and November 2021, unvaccinated U.S. adults accounted for $ 13.8 billion in “preventable” COVID hospital costs nationwide.

Kaiser estimated that during the six-month period, which included the Delta wave, vaccinations could have prevented 59% of COVID hospital admissions among American adults. Kaiser counted 690,000 hospital admissions that can be prevented with vaccines, averaging $ 20,000. And it was estimated that vaccinations could have prevented 163,000 deaths in the United States during the same period.

If the vaccine was delayed by half of the more than 1 million new US COVID hospital admissions since December, the cost of a preventable hospital stay could increase to an additional $ 10 billion, Reuters found.

One thing is clear: As US insurers and hospital networks expect vaccine delays, it is likely that patients admitted to hospital due to COVID will eventually shoulder a larger share of the bill.

“These hospitalizations are not only devastating for patients and their families, but they could also put patients on the hook for thousands of dollars,” Krutika Amin, Kaiser’s deputy director and one of the co-authors of the study in December, told Reuters. Unlike earlier in the pandemic, Amin said, most private health insurances have ceased to waive the cost share or deductible for COVID patients who end up in hospital.

For some insurance plans, the cost for a COVID patient in a hospital can exceed $ 8,000 just for “online” services, she added. Expenditure could increase for the uninsured and those involved in off-network care.

Now that Americans have the choice to protect themselves with vaccines, insurance companies are demanding that patients bear more of these costs, but “many do not have enough to pay,” Amin said.

Recent data – covering the Omicron wave – underscores the risk of unvaccination. In January in New York State, unvaccinated adults were more than 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than adults, according to state Department of Health.

Political focus

The United States has spent billions on vaccinating weapons, including more than $ 19.3 billion to help develop vaccines, according to federal reports.

However, the United States has one of the highest rates of COVID vaccination among advanced countries, with some questioning the need for a shot or a brush at the behest of the government or the workplace.

“A subgroup of people who are actually anti-COVID vaccines, ready to retire or try to go to work, is now pretty tight,” said Julie Downs, a social psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

COVID vaccines have become a political hotspot and vaccination rates vary widely by region: In Vermont, public health data show that 84% of those 18 and older are fully vaccinated, compared to just over 60% in Alabama.

Nearly 76% of people in the United States have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, according to CDC data, while the fully vaccinated number – in all age groups – stands at 64%. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved a COVID vaccine for children under 5 years of age.

Perhaps the biggest financial risk facing vaccines has been redundancies, said Amin from Kaiser.

New York City, which is demanding that city workers be vaccinated, fired more than 1,400 of those who had not been vaccinated before the city deadline last month, while about 9,000 other workers continued to seek relief from the city. figures show. The vast majority of the city’s 370,000 employees are vaccinated.

A nationwide survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in October found that about a quarter of employees said their employer needed proof of vaccination. Only 1% of employees in the survey – and 5% of unvaccinated workers – said they had stopped working due to a vaccine in the workplace.

A small minority of healthcare workers across the country have been fired or put on work leave because they chose to be unvaccinated, but the layoffs still amount to thousands of layoffs, according to a report from Fierce Healthcare, which follows the development.

No wax tax

Major employers, including JP Morgan and Bank of America, have told their US employees that they can expect to pay more – or receive fewer benefits through the company’s well-being – if they do not provide proof of vaccination.

Other companies have extended the insurance premium for unvaccinated spouses or family members of employees if they want to be insured under the employee’s health insurance.

And after global life insurance companies suffered $ 5.5 billion in global damage than expected in the first nine months of 2021, insurers will seek to better adjust premiums to COVID mortality risk in the future, Reuters said.

Vaccination status and other health risks – such as obesity or smoking – are measures that life insurers can examine when seeking protection from clients. Under US Affordable Care Act, individuals seeking health insurance cannot be denied due to existing circumstances, including COVID, or charged more for not being vaccinated. But companies that cover part of their employees’ health insurance costs can pass on higher costs to unvaccinated workers.

Delta Airlines said last year that it would charge employees who did not vaccinate an additional $ 200 a month for health insurance. The airline said the premium reflected a higher risk of COVID hospitalization for these employees, noting that COVID staff hospitalizations had cost $ 50,000 each on average so far.

University students can also face financial consequences for quitting. At least 500 universities in the United States have vaccination mandates, some exclude enrollment or personal schooling for those who do not follow through, or require them to undergo frequent COVID tests.

Cait Corrigan said she enrolled in a master’s degree in theology at Boston University this year and was offered an academic scholarship. Corrigan, who has led a general action against vaccination rights, said she was granted a religious exemption from the school’s vaccination mandate, but the school required her to take regular nasal swabs to attend. Corrigan said she refused to have a nose job for “medical reasons”.

The university stopped her and withdrew funding, she said. “It was a great loss.” Boston University did not respond to a request for comment.

Right now in New York, Corrigan says he is fighting for a parliamentary seat as a Republican. Her scene: “medical freedom.”

The cost of going unvaccinated in America is rising for employees, companies

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