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How being unvaccinated against Covid-19 can impact your wallet

In this article

A patient receives a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot at a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Michigan, on Sept. 29, 2021.
Emily Elconin | Reuters

Some people are still holding off getting vaccinated against Covid-19, even as mandates increase for the immunization.

Those who aren’t yet vaccinated have been barred from some restaurants, travel and more. There could also be significant financial costs for those that have not yet gotten their shots.

Of course, incentives and mandates have worked to help raise the country’s vaccination rate. For example, United Airlines, which mandated that its employees receive the Covid-19 vaccine this summer, now has a nearly 100% worker vaccination rate.

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And, more guidelines are coming — the Biden Administration said it will require all employers with 100 or more workers to ensure they are vaccinated or tested weekly. It will also require all federal workers and contractors and health-care workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Here’s how being unvaccinated will hit your wallet.

Employment

Many employers are now mandating that workers be vaccinated against Covid-19 and are laying off employees that refuse to get their shot.

Airlines such as United, Southwest, American, JetBlue and Alaska have required vaccinations. This week, Northwell Health, New York state’s largest health-care system, laid off 1,400 workers who didn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The biggest cost is losing your job,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation and director for the program on the Affordable Care act. “That’s become an issue that more people face as more and more employers implement vaccine mandates.”

In some cases, mandates even extend to family members. A health system in Louisiana said this week that it would charge workers an additional $200 per month to insure their unvaccinated spouses or partners.  

Insurance

Other companies are taking a different approach and passing the cost of higher insurance onto employees who remain unvaccinated.

Delta Air Lines, for example, hasn’t mandated that employees get the Covid-19 vaccine — it’s the only major carrier not to have such a requirement — but will make unvaccinated workers pay an additional $200 per month.

There could be additional insurance costs on the horizon. Many health insurance providers already assess a surcharge for smokers, which they could do for those who remain unvaccinated.

Medical costs

There will also be a higher price tag on medical treatment for Covid-19 going forward , and it’s more likely to hit the unvaccinated, who now account for about 97% of those hospitalized for the illness.

In the early days of the pandemic, most major insurers waived payments for coronavirus treatment. Now, those waivers are expiring, meaning that patients will be on the hook for any bills they rack up during a hospital stay for Covid-19.

Hospitalization for Covid-19 by the unvaccinated — categorized as preventable — have added $5.7 billion in costs to the health-care system from July to August, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The cost is mostly born by taxpayers and people who are paying health insurance premiums,” said Cox.

The unvaccinated will also potentially be required to pay for any testing they need to prove they don’t have Covid-19. Of course, this is an expense that will also be passed on to those that are vaccinated and still need to be tested — the cost generally ranges from about $20 to $1,419 for a single test, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In some cases, however, tests can cost much more.  

“There’s no requirement that those tests have to be covered or have to be free,” said Cox, referring specifically to tests at work for the unvaccinated. “That could add up over time if you’re having to get a test every week.”

Education

Schools across the country are also now requiring that all teachers, staff and eligible students be vaccinated against Covid-19.

That includes some 500 colleges. For college students who aren’t vaccinated, refusing to get the inoculation could lead to them being unable to attend school in person and miss out on some of the benefits of being on campus.

“This disrupts the value of face-to-face, residential education if you can’t engage in co-curricular activities,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “That’s a real loss.”

They may also have to foot the bill for extra testing if they are allowed on campus. In some extreme cases, they may lose scholarships — one student at Brigham Young University lost $200,000 in scholarships because she wouldn’t get the vaccine, the Daily Mail reported.

Vacation

Being unvaccinated may also add costs to vacations. Cruise lines such as Carnival, for example, are requiring that all unvaccinated passengers have travel insurance and cover the $150 price for their own tests for Covid-19.

The required travel insurance must be a minimum of $10,000 per person in medical expense coverage and $30,000 for emergency medical evacuation and without Covid-19 exclusions, according to the cruise line.

“That is something that vaccinated passengers don’t have to pay for,” said Laura Ratliff, senior editorial director of TravelSavvy.

In addition, restrictions are soon to become more stringent for travelers due to legislation going into effect in November. Previously, international travelers returning to the U.S. needed to show proof of a negative Covid test 72 hours before their flight. Next month, unvaccinated Americans returning to the U.S. will have to have a negative test within 24 hours of travel.

Even now, testing requirements can add hundreds to thousands of dollars in expenses to a vacation. That will likely get worse for those who remain unvaccinated.

“It’s very costly,” said James Ferrara, president of the InteleTravel network of home-based travel advisors. “And maybe the bigger cost is the trouble, the concerns, the inconvenience, frustration and confusion.”

Death costs

The unvaccinated may also need to cope with the costs of death, as so far Covid-19 has killed more than 700,000 Americans, making it the deadliest pandemic ever in the U.S.

Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die of the virus than those with the vaccine, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s a real risk of death,” said Cox. “Then your family is left with the cost of your funeral, end-of-life care and the loss of your income.”

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