Category: Cost of Healthcare, Health and Wellness

The Economic Effect of Not Getting Vaccinated

When I was in high school, I went on a school field trip. I grew up in a small town and went to a small Catholic school, so anytime we got to get on a bus and go somewhere OTHER than school was a pretty huge deal. On this particular day, we boarded a bus very early in the morning and went to the Big City, all the way to New Orleans to see the brand-new Superdome!

The Superdome had just opened and it was a marvel of modern technology. Easily the largest domed stadium in the world at the time, it was so famous and popular that thousands of people a day were going just to take tours of it. We were going to a Holy Year rally Mass given in the Dome by a host of bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church, and to hear a homily (sermon) by the famous Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I had no idea who he was, but my mom and dad were very impressed.

What I remember most about that day was thinking I had never, ever seen that many people in one place at the same time. The Dome could easily have held my small town’s population three times over! So many people! My young brain struggled to wrap around the fact that I was seeing almost 70,000 people all in the same place at the same time. And all sitting in air-conditioned comfort during a Louisiana September.


Two Superdomes Full of People

Just this week, we got access to some computer modeling that tried (and did a fine job in their modeling discipline) to estimate how many MORE people would have been killed by COVID-19 if medical scientists had been unsuccessful in developing the life-saving vaccines we have today. So, imagine a world without access to the COVID-19 vaccines. How many of us would have died from COVID-19?

Sadly, it’s 140,000 MORE people dead. That’s TWO Superdomes full of people who could have died but are alive today strictly because of vaccination. Just in the first five months of 2021! The vaccine’s effectiveness is a real thing and we were able to prevent that much death because of people 12 and older who played ball and got their shots.

140,000 is a lot of people. That’s more people than in the populations of Metairie or Lafayette. It’s TWO Kenners or two Bossier Cities. That’s THREE Monroes, FOUR Houmas FULL of people who are alive today because of the COVID-19 vaccines. Talk about a modern-day miracle.

But, COVID-19 is not just a healthcare pandemic. It’s an ECONOMIC pandemic as well. If we use that same logic, we can now estimate, even allowing for breakthrough cases, how much healthcare costs and spending have been driven strictly by unvaccinated people who got very severe cases of COVID-19 and ended up in the hospital or died from the virus. Now, in the case of children younger than 12, they don’t have the option to get the vaccine, which is why it’s even more important that those of us who can get the shot, do so – our immunity protects them, and they’re counting on us to keep them safe and healthy. But for people older than 12 who made the decision, for whatever reason, not to get vaccinated — how much has it cost to care for them?

An Economic Argument for Vaccination

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost per COVID-19 hospitalization is running around $20,000. In June and July alone, that added up to $2.3 billion.

That number is just showing hospital costs for unvaccinated patients in the U.S. over the past TWO MONTHS – June and July 2021. $2.3 billion. At that rate, we can expect hospital care to total over $20 billion in avoidable costs by the end of the year. That’s big money. $2.3 billion is enough money to pay for health insurance for half a million people for an entire year. That’s the kind of money we are talking about. $20 billion is two-thirds of the entire Louisiana annual state budget! Big money. And with the exception of hospitalized children who are too young to get the vaccine, it’s extremely preventable with a quick jab or two.

And, that’s not just money out of the health system – it’s coming out of your pocket, too. Cost-sharing is not waived for COVID-19 related hospitalizations. That means if you get very sick with COVID-19 and end up in the hospital, you will be responsible for the normal cost-share (copay, deductible or coinsurance) on your health plan. Your out-of-pocket responsibility on a $20,000 hospital bill would be pretty steep – or you could get the $0 shot and sharply lower your risk of getting that bill.

Straight Talk is, if you are still on the fence about COVID-19 vaccination, you can add these two items to the list I gave you last week: The vaccines have saved over 140,000 lives in the U.S. alone so far, and hospital care for unvaccinated patients has driven $2.3 billion in highly avoidable healthcare costs in June and July alone. I would dearly love to see you in the first category (alive, vaccinated and out of the hospital) and NOT in the second (in the hospital, getting extremely intense treatment and racking up high healthcare costs).

Give it a go. Get your shots. Protect your health and make sure you’ll be able to be in that number for many more years.

One comment on “The Economic Effect of Not Getting Vaccinated

  1. Cameron Martin

    Talk to your doctor to determine if the vaccine is right for you, as many adults with underlying health conditions are not able to and should not get the vaccine. Again, talk to your doctor to make the best choice for you and your health.


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