COVID-19 copay, deductible returns may encourage vaccination

Insurers around the country are gradually reinstating coronavirus-related copays and deductibles, and despite public speculation that payers are looking to cash in, analysts say it could play a key role in encouraging vaccination. 

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has been a motivator in reinstating costs, according to Michigan Bridge. Insurers are looking to promote "personal responsibility" among members for their health during this stage of the pandemic, according to Michael Genord, CEO of Health Alliance Plan.

"We've tried to incentivize people, to appeal to their better angels [to] 'Please go get vaccinated,'" said Melissa Riba, director of research and evaluation at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Health and Research Transformation. "[Reinstating costs is] moving away from the incentives to more of the penalties associated with making a choice to be non-vaccinated."

Riba described reinstating costs as the "leading edge of the stick" to encourage vaccination, with previous efforts — such as gift cards, raffle tickets and free donuts — being the "carrot." In Michigan, the carrot is largely being ignored as vaccination rates plateau, according to Michigan Bridge.

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