Viewpoint: Health insurance surcharges the key to COVID-19 accountability

Payers maintain one of the few remaining ways of holding accountable the 15 percent of U.S. adults unvaccinated against COVID-19: leveraging insurance surcharges and discounts, columnist Glenn Altschuler wrote in a Jan. 10 column for The Hill

Hospitals are once again reaching dangerous capacities as the unvaccinated, who bear the greatest risk of being severely ill, fill beds. As 90 percent of unvaccinated adults say little will change their mind about getting the shot, Mr. Altschuler said insurers must leverage health insurance surcharges as an incentive. 

Mr. Altschuler pointed to smoking as a strong precedent for imposing a vaccination-based surcharge. The state-dependent surcharges upwards of 50 percent and threat of fraud or a felony set the framework for payers to push back against smoking and its health risks. 

He also claims that the success of Delta Air Lines' COVID-19 insurance changes — including a monthly $200 surcharge and limited pay protections for those missing work due to being unvaccinated and having COVID-19 — resulted in a 94 percent vaccination rate among employees. 

In addition to flooded hospitals, the fact that two-thirds of Americans are angry at the unvaccinated and that the unvaccinated are unlikely to budge should be the necessary push for insurers to take action, Mr. Altschuler argued.

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