Bearing the financial costs of not being vaccinated

As of now, NC State’s approach to the Fall semester is to require weekly Covid tests for the unvaccinated that the vaccinated can opt out of.  Obviously, a vaccine mandate would be way better, but this is certainly better than nothing.  What really bugs me, though, is who will be paying for these weekly surveillance tests– me.  And all the other NC taxpayers.  Now, back before the vaccine, of course it made sense as a public policy good to distribute the costs of these tests widely as it enabled the university to function with some sense of normalcy.  But now that it is a (anti-social) choice to remain unvaccinated, the costs of the testing should absolutely be borne by the unvaccinated on campus, not the community at large.  Rhodes College in Tennessee (and other colleges I’ve read about) have this right.  NYT:

Spurred by rising Covid cases and the Delta variant’s spread, a wave of major employers announced the same rule for unvaccinated workers this week: They will need to submit to regular surveillance testing. The new requirement raises a thorny question: Who pays for those coronavirus tests?

Doctors typically charge about $50 to $100 for the tests, so the costs of weekly testing could add up quickly. Federal law requires insurers to fully cover the tests when ordered by a health care provider, but routine workplace tests are exempt from that provision.

“It’s really up to the employer,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “They can require employees to pick up the tab.”

Employers have so far taken a range of approaches, from fully covering the costs to having unvaccinated workers pay full freight.

Among the employers taking a different approach is Rhodes College in Tennessee: It will require unvaccinated students without a medical or religious exemption to pay a $1,500 fee per semester to cover the costs associated with a weekly coronavirus testing program.

Rhodes, a small liberal arts college, estimates that three-quarters of its employees are vaccinated. It is still collecting information about the vaccination rate among its 2,000 students, and it strongly encourages vaccination. But it is waiting until full Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccines before mandating them.

“This is not a punishment,” said Meghan Harte Weyant, the college’s vice president for student life. “Students who choose to return to campus unvaccinated” without an exemption will have to cover the testing costs, she said. “This is intended to ensure that students who are vaccinated do not have to bear that cost.”

As a society, we are all now clearly bearing the costs of the unvaccinated in ways large and small, but where there is such a clearly identifiable financial cost as surveillance testing for the unvaccinated they should damn sure have to bear it themselves.  

Why Europe has outpaced the US in vaccinations

Didn’t really love the frame of this NYT Upshot feature (nice graphics, though). “How Europe, After a Fumbling Start, Overtook the U.S. in Vaccination: Just a few months ago, European Union efforts were a mess, but its problems were temporary. The United States turned out to have the more lasting challenge.”

I mean if the US weren’t so full of anti-vaxxers (and non-vaxxers, to be more charitable), we could be crushing the EU.  But, alas…  I mean it’s really straightforward: the US really was way better at rapid vaccine roll-out.  But, over the long-term, success is almost completely dependent not upon initial speed, but on population attitudes towards the vaccine. And that’s where we suck, in perspective.  So, some interesting stuff along the way, but, in the end, this one chart tells you pretty much everything you need to know about current and ultimate vaccination levels:

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