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Vaccinated? A new bill could require your insurance company to pay you.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/14/2022 6:35:15 PM
Modified: 1/14/2022 6:34:22 PM

After months of nudges and education, a new bill uses a novel strategy to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations in New Hampshire – a monetary incentive.

The legislation, Senate Bill 319, would require health insurance companies to offer a “wellness financial incentive” to clients who voluntarily provide proof of coronavirus vaccination.

At a Thursday morning Senate HHS Committee meeting, primary sponsor Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, said the bill is intended to reduce the financial burden on hospitals and to prevent a rise in health insurance premiums as a result of costly COVID hospitalizations.

“This bill is a classic free-market solution, offering a financial incentive for people to make an informed choice in their relationship with the insurer,” she said.

The actual amount that vaccinated people would receive is not outlined in the bill. Rosenwald said this is to allow insurance companies to find the balance between the cost to the company and the amount that might be saved by avoiding hospitalizations.

The bill would sunset after a year-and-a-half, when Rosenwald said she hopes the pandemic will be “eased.”

There is some evidence to suggest that payment works to incentivize vaccinations. Rosenwald referenced a 2021 randomized survey from the University of California, Los Angeles. A third of unvaccinated respondents said money would make them more likely to get the shot. However, other researchers have expressed concerns that a financial incentive could backfire by leading people to believe vaccination is not something they would want to do without compensation.

Even though participation would be voluntary and unvaccinated Granite Staters would not be penalized under this bill, several members of the public said they felt the legislation was discriminatory.

“If I can’t get the $100 or even if it is $1, that’s discrimination,” one woman said. “For our government to put in a bill that would allow coercion of our people, of our children, of our state citizens, is completely inappropriate.”

Several other states have offered vaccine incentives, such as lottery tickets, free tickets and $100 cash. Gov. Chris Sununu has scoffed at these strategies in the past.

“To say we’re now going to pay you to get a vaccine you otherwise wouldn’t be getting, that’s not where I am,” he said at a press conference in June.

The committee also heard public comment for Senate Bill 288, which would prevent schools from requiring their students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Sen. Kevin Avard, a Nashua Republican and the prime sponsor of the bill, said he heard from hundreds of parents who are concerned that a vaccine mandate will soon go into effect for their children.

“If they want to vaccinate their child, that’s their decision. If they don’t, that’s their decision,” he said. “They should have a right to make the choice rather than a handful of bureaucrats.”

Paula Minnehan, senior vice president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, spoke in opposition to the bill, warning that while the current variant impacts older adults, future iterations of the virus could target children.

“The current surge of COVID-19 is crippling our health care system and we need all the options available to battle this pandemic,” she said.

Kate Frey, a representative from New Futures, opposed the bill for a different reason. She said the bill would put unnecessary and onerous regulations on New Hampshire’s child care market.

“Child care agencies should be given the flexibility to choose how to adapt to the needs of parents and demands of the market,” she said.

Several other members of the public raised concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine and potential long-term adverse reactions. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have found COVIID-19 vaccines to be safe and adverse reactions to be exceedingly rare.

No schools in New Hampshire currently require the COVID-19 vaccine for attendance. Avard said this bill is a measure to prevent local authorities from mandating vaccines, as some have required masks.

The Senate HHS Committee will take up both bills in the coming weeks.


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