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.  

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Bearing the financial costs of not being vaccinated

  1. jeffbc94 says:

    100% agree with this. Would love to see it happen here, though unlikely.

    What the vaccinated are now doing just to make sure we don’t ruffle feathers of the unvaccinated is wearing on me.
    As one former student tweeted: “I honestly don’t mind starting to wear masks again. What I do mind is doing it simply to protect those who refuse to get vaccinated.”

    Really not sure why we’re back to mandating masks instead of the vaccine. Well, I know why, I just can’t get on board with it.

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