Survey: 3 Out of 10 Think Unvaccinated Should Pay More for Health Insurance

Daily COVID-19 cases in the United States increased by over 2000% from June to September this year, largely due to the rise of the Delta variant, which is now the predominant form of COVID-19 in the nation.

Currently, only around 54% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, leaving many vulnerable to this disease that has taken over 650,000 lives in our nation alone.

The CDC has found that unvaccinated people are the most susceptible to contracting the Delta variant which has been shown to be more dangerous than the original virus.

To make matters worse, many who have contracted COVID-19 are experiencing symptoms of “long COVID” including difficulty breathing, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, chest pain, trouble sleeping, and more for months after contracting the disease.

COVID-19 and its often-lingering affects can lead to an increased need for medical attention and treatment. While 88% of private health insurance plans waived out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 hospitalizations in 2020, nearly three-quarters have since ended these waivers, leaving many with considerable medical bills.

All of this begs the question: should unvaccinated people pay more for health insurance than the vaccinated?

To find out what Americans think, we surveyed 600 adults, asking them questions about this and more, including if they’ve gotten vaccinated, why they decided to get vaccinated, and if they believe the vaccine to be effective.

Key Findings

  • 30% of all respondents think health insurance companies should charge higher premiums to unvaccinated people, including:
    • 47% of Democrats
    • 24% of Republicans
    • 38% of those who are vaccinated
    • 7% of those who are unvaccinated
  • 72% of all respondents think COVID-19 vaccines are effective, including:
    • 88% of Democrats
    • 67% of Republicans
    • 89% of those who are vaccinated
    • 20% of those who are unvaccinated
  • 29% of respondents received special benefits on their health insurance for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 40% of vaccinated respondents said their doctors or healthcare providers had the most influence over them deciding to get the vaccine, followed by friends or family members (23%), the media (8%), and health insurance companies (7%).

Vaccination Status by Political Affiliation

We started off our survey by asking respondents what their political affiliation is. Here is the breakdown:

  • Democrat – 41%
  • Republican – 27%
  • Independent/Other – 26%
  • Chose not to say – 6%

We next asked if respondents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are the results broken out by political party:

As shown, the vast majority of Democrats have received the vaccine (90%), while far fewer Republicans have (68%).

Much of Republicans’ resistance to getting vaccinated seems to be related to them seeing it as a personal choice as opposed to a means to protecting fellow citizens, weariness over how fast the vaccines were developed, and less faith in science overall.

Of those who did receive the vaccine, here is what influenced them the most to get it:

As shown, 40% of respondents were most influenced by their doctors or healthcare providers, followed by friends or family members (23%), the media (8%), and health insurance companies (7%).

Belief in Vaccines’ Effectiveness Largely Split by Political Party & Vaccination Status

Unsurprisingly, with such a sharp contrast in vaccination status by political party, we also found that Democrats are more likely to believe that the vaccines are effective than Republicans.

As shown, 88% of Democrats believe the vaccines to be effective but only 67% of Republicans. Additionally, 89% of those who are vaccinated believe them to be effective, while only 20% of those who are unvaccinated.

Perhaps now that the three COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. have received full FDA approval, many of those who are unvaccinated will start trusting them more.

Still, 62% of unvaccinated respondents indicated that they have no plans to get the vaccine. With such a large portion of Americans planning to stay unvaccinated, we return to the question of whether they should pay more for health insurance than those who are.

3 Out of 10 Overall & Nearly Half of Democrats Think Unvaccinated Should Pay Higher Health Insurance Premiums

Our next question asked respondents whether they think the unvaccinated should pay higher health insurance premiums than those who are vaccinated:

Much like our other questions, the results varied significantly by political party and vaccination status. Democrats (47%) and the vaccinated (38%) are much more likely to believe the unvaccinated should pay more for health insurance than Republicans (24%) and the unvaccinated (7%).

While there are legal and ethical complications of employers and health insurance companies charging unvaccinated people more for health insurance, there are a few ways that unvaccinated people could end up paying more in addition to higher out-of-pocket costs resulting from getting treatment for COVID-19.

First, employers can introduce incentive programs to lower costs for those who receive the vaccine, much like many do for those who get physicals, complete smoking-cessation programs, or do other healthy activities.

Second, employers can introduce surcharges to those who don’t receive the vaccine. Delta Airlines, for example, announced that unvaccinated employees will have to pay $200 monthly surcharges on health insurance starting in November.

Despite laws requiring health insurance premiums to be set strictly based on age, location, tobacco use, family enrollment, and plan category, companies are exploring ways to increase costs for the unvaccinated, and a considerable portion of Americans—especially Democrats and the vaccinated—are supportive of it.

Nearly 30% Received Insurance Benefits for Getting Vaccine

As mentioned above, there are ways that employers can offer discounts on health insurance premiums for those who receive the vaccine.

Our next question asked respondents if they have received any of these types of benefits:

As shown, 29% of respondents have received benefits for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

While we did not specifically ask respondents if these benefits influenced their decision to get vaccinated, of this group, 94% have been vaccinated.

Given that the overall portion of respondents that have gotten vaccinated is 75%, it is likely that at least some of these respondents were influenced to get the vaccine based on these insurance benefits—indicating that employer-incentivized vaccination benefits may be a viable method of increasing our nation’s vaccination rate.

Full Survey Results

1) Do you currently have health insurance?

  • Yes – 90.1%
  • No – 9.1%

2) What is your political affiliation?

  • Democrat – 40.9%
  • Republican – 27.1%
  • Independent/Other – 26.0%
  • Choose not to say – 6.0%

3) Have you received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Overall
    • Yes – 75.4%
    • No – 24.6%
  • Democrats
    • Yes – 90.2%
    • No – 9.8%
  • Republicans
    • Yes – 67.8%
    • No – 32.2%
  • Independent/Other
    • Yes – 69.0%
    • No – 31.0%

4) Do you intend to get vaccinated for COVID-19? (Asked only to those who have not gotten the vaccine.)

  • Yes – 33.1%
  • No – 62.1%
  • Unsure – 4.8%

5) Who had the most influence in making your decision to get vaccinated? (Asked only to those who have gotten the vaccine.)

  • Doctor or healthcare provider – 39.9%
  • A friend or family member – 23.2%
  • The media – 8.1%
  • Health insurance company – 7.3%
  • Social media sites – 1.8%
  • A politician – 0.4%
  • None of the above – 19.5%

6) Do you believe the COVID-19 vaccine to be effective?

  • Overall
    • Yes – 71.9%
    • No – 10.6%
    • I don’t know – 15.3%
    • I prefer not to answer – 2.2%
  • Vaccinated respondents
    • Yes – 88.8%
    • No – 3.4%
    • I don’t know – 7.1%
    • I prefer not to answer – 0.4%
  • Unvaccinated respondents
    • Yes – 20.3%
    • No – 31.9%
    • I don’t know – 40.1%
    • I prefer not to answer – 7.8%
  • Democrats
    • Yes – 88.3%
    • No – 7.3%
    • I don’t know – 4.2%
    • I prefer not to answer – 0.2%
  • Republicans
    • Yes – 66.5%
    • No – 16.4%
    • I don’t know – 17.1%
    • I prefer not to answer – 0%
  • Independents/Other
    • Yes – 61.7%
    • No – 7.8%
    • I don’t know – 28.3%
    • I prefer not to answer – 2.1%

7) Which of the following best describes your stance regarding health insurance premiums and vaccination?

  • Overall
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 30.3%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 47.1%
    • I have no opinion – 12.7%
    • I don’t know – 9.9%
  • Vaccinated
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 38.0%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 44.4%
    • I have no opinion – 11.0%
    • I don’t know – 6.7%
  • Unvaccinated
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 7.0%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 55.6%
    • I have no opinion – 17.9%
    • I don’t know – 19.6%
  • Democrats
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 46.5%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 36.4%
    • I have no opinion – 7.8%
    • I don’t know – 9.4%
  • Republicans
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 23.8%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 57.9%
    • I have no opinion – 11.8%
    • I don’t know – 6.5%
  • Independent/Other
    • Insurance companies should charge higher premiums to the unvaccinated – 17.1%
    • Insurance companies should charge equal premiums to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated – 57.9%
    • I have no opinion – 15.8%
    • I don’t know – 9.2%

8) Were there any changes (price, coverage, etc.) in your insurance benefits since April 2020? (Asked only to those with health insurance.)

  • Yes – 34.7%
  • No – 54.5%
  • I don’t know – 9.6%
  • I prefer not to answer – 1.2%

9) Were you given any special benefits by your insurance for getting the COVID-19 vaccine? (Asked only to those with health insurance.)

  • Yes – 29.4%
  • No – 69.3%
  • I prefer not to answer – 1.3%

Methodology

All data found within this report come from a survey commissioned by Expertise.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish on August 4, 2021. In total, 600 adult Americans were surveyed. Results were post-stratified by age and gender to better match the demographics of the United States. Results may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding.