Covid Surge Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said boosting vaccination rates will not be enough to contain soaring coronavirus infections across the country, Bloomberg reported, calling for tough action as countries across Europe come down hard on the unvaccinated and prepare drastic measures to smother the outbreak.

Key Facts

Merkel reportedly told officials from her conservative party on Monday that many Germans don’t appear to understand how severe the country’s outbreak is, according to Bloomberg, calling on individual German states to implement tougher restrictions this week.

The measures would exceed new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public transport and many areas of public life—which apply in areas where hospitalized Covid-19 patients exceed a certain threshold—and health minister Jens Spahn said he could not rule out another nationwide lockdown.

Some politicians in Germany are debating following neighboring Austria—which went back into full lockdown Monday after a more targeted, unvaccinated-only lockdown—in requiring everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

From February next year, Austrians refusing the jab will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,000), with smaller penalties for those refusing booster shots.

Czechia and Slovakia have also started to make life harder for vaccine holdouts—Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger reportedly called the measures a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”—barring them from using various services, entering restaurants and public events.

Crucial Quote

By spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany… will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Spahn said at a news conference Monday. “With the very contagious delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will over the next few months become infected.”

Key Background

Europe has, again, become the center of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have been rising there even as they mostly fell around the world. The World Health Organization said it is “very worried” about the situation, warning that an additional 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March if sufficient steps aren’t taken.

Many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, are facing dramatic surges and infections are at record-breaking levels. Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands are all at, or have hit, new highs and cases are rapidly rising in other countries.

Violent protests against new lockdowns and other restrictions have erupted across the bloc as governments scramble to contain rising cases. Many of these measures explicitly target the unvaccinated, who experts and officials warn are undoubtedly driving the new wave by refusing provably safe and effective vaccines.

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I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com

Source: Covid Surge ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’: Germany Mulls Tough Restrictions As Europe Targets Unvaccinated With Lockdown, Compulsory Shots

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Further Reading

Czechs, Slovaks target unvaccinated people in step behind Austria (Reuters)

Not Just Austria—Here Are The Countries Making Covid-19 Vaccination Compulsory For Everyone (Forbes)

Europe’s Carrot vs. Stick Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination (Atlantic)

Austria Sends Unvaccinated Into Lockdown—Here’s How Other Nations Are Limiting People Who Don’t Get Covid-19 Shots (Forbes)

Merkel Says Covid Spike ‘Worse Than Anything We’ve Seen’ (Bloomberg)

‘We Have To Face Reality’: Austria Announces Nationwide Vaccine Mandate, Full-Scale Covid-19 Lockdown (Forbes)

Lockdown And Restrictions Resurface In Europe As Continent Battles Another Covid Surge (Forbes)

Can Health Insurance Companies Charge the Unvaccinated Higher Premiums? What About Life Insurers? 5 Questions Answered

Given the average cost of a COVID-19 hospitalization in 2020 ran about US$42,200 per patient, will the unvaccinated be asked to bear more of the cost of treatment, in terms of insurance, as well?

We asked economists Kosali Simon and Sharon Tennyson to explain the rules governing how health and life insurers can discriminate among customers based on vaccination status and other health-related reasons.

1. Can insurers charge the unvaccinated more?

This is a really interesting question and depends on the type of insurance.

Life insurance companies have the freedom to charge different premiums based on risk factors that predict mortality. Purchasing a life insurance policy often entails a health status check or medical exam, and asking for vaccination status is not banned.

Health insurers are a different story. A slew of state and federal regulations in the last three decades have heavily restricted their ability to use health factors in issuing or pricing polices. In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act began prohibiting the use of health status in any group health insurance policy. And the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2014, prevents insurers from pricing plans according to health – with one exception: smoking status.

2. Are premiums or coverage being affected yet?

Fortune recently reported that while several of the biggest U.S. life insurance companies aren’t yet asking customers for their vaccination status, a few insurers told the magazine they are doing so for people at high risk. It wasn’t clear from the article whether this is affecting premiums.

A recent study comparing life insurance policies from 2014 through February 2021 found that premiums and coverage didn’t change a lot during the pandemic. The study did find some evidence that policy terms for the oldest individuals and those with high-risk health conditions did worsen.

The authors of the study suggested that the rapid development of vaccines may be why life insurance markets haven’t yet shown a dramatic response to COVID-19, but their work does not distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.

It’s important to note that no matter what, premiums and coverage on existing life insurance plans won’t change, so a death due to COVID-19 will definitely be covered. In general, denial of life insurance claims is rare and occurs only for specific documented reasons.

3. So smokers may pay higher premiums?

In life insurance, smokers definitely pay higher premiums, as do people who are obese.

ValuePenguin, a unit of LendingTree that provides research and analysis, found that smokers typically pay over three times more for life insurance than non-smokers.

The site also found that obesity increases premiums by about 150% – or more if the person also has medical conditions associated with being overweight.

As for health insurance pricing, the Affordable Care Act allows insurers to increase premiums by up to 50% for smokers. The difference between what smokers and non-smokers pay may actually be higher because the former can’t use a key government subsidy to pay for the smoker surcharge.

The ACA makes no similar exception for obesity.

4. How about discounts for the vaccinated?

There is a tool health insurers – including self-insured employers – have to lower premiums to those who are vaccinated: wellness incentives.

Just as insurers and companies offer discounts for things like trying to lose weight or stop smoking, they are also permitted to reduce the health insurance premiums that vaccinated employees pay.

In 2019, the average maximum incentive offered by employers for workers to participate in wellness activities was $783 per year.

Some employers are already incentivizing COVID-19 vaccinations this way. For example, Missouri State University offers a $20-a-month discount on health insurance premiums for employees who got a COVID-19 jab. Others are considering similar discounts.

And so, even though insurers can’t charge the unvaccinated higher premiums, people who refuse to get a shot can end up paying more than their vaccinated colleagues.

5. Do insurers consider other vaccine or flu shots in rates?

To the best of our knowledge, insurers haven’t specifically used vaccination status or getting a flu shot in setting premiums.

As part of having access to your medical records, life insurers might get to know whether you received vaccinations, but there are no systems in place to verify each year whether you got your flu shot. Health insurers can’t ask about vaccine status for the reasons listed above.

Employers can offer incentives to get a flu shot through their wellness programs.

[Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

Kosali Simon, Professor of Health Economics, Indiana University and Sharon Tennyson, Professor of Public Policy and Economics, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Source: Can Health Insurance Companies Charge the Unvaccinated Higher Premiums? What About Life Insurers? 5 Questions Answered – HealthyWomen

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