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Well and Good: Refusing to Get Vaccinated Can Cost You (and Your Family) Thousands of Dollars

From Well and Good: Over the summer of 2021, Philadelphia ran the Philly Vax Sweepstakes—a lottery designed to incentivize Philly residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The lottery targeted Philadelphia’s most unvaccinated populations, giving people who lived in zip codes with low vaccination rates greater odds of winning up to $50,000. As of July 2021, at least 14 other states, including Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, and Louisiana, ran vaccine lotteries, giving people huge incentives to get vaccinated. By law, health insurance companies cannot add charges to your premium because you’re unvaccinated, says Kosali Simon, PhD, a health economics and policy professor at Indiana University. However, employers can do things like offer health insurance discounts to vaccinated people, and life insurance companies are legally allowed to charge the unvaccinated more. Employers and organizations are also finding other ways to add costs for being unvaccinated, and this can equate to hundreds or thousands of dollars. “It’s pretty common now that there’s one set of protocols for vaccinated people and then another for unvaccinated people in terms of frequency of testing and the like,” says Kevin Volpp, MD, PhD, director of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE), which partnered on the Philly Vax Sweepstakes. “One option [for employers] is to say, ‘Okay, if you choose not to get vaccinated, you’re going to have to cover those incremental costs.’ Another is to say, ‘Well, from an actuarial standpoint, you’re going to cost more in terms of your healthcare, and we’re going to pass that cost on to you.’” Read the full story in Well and Good. 

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