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Should Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Pay Higher Insurance Premiums?

Dr. Rahul K. Parikh wrote a provocative editorial for CNN today, proposing that parents who choose not to vaccinate should be obligated to pay higher insurance rates than those parents who do immunize. He cites research from a 2008 measles outbreak triggered by an unvaccinated child who contracted the disease in Europe. The child in turn exposed 839 people, passing measles on to 11 others, one of whom required hospitalization. The total cost to manage and treat this outbreak? $124,517.  

Dr. Parikh writes:

“Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It's precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

It makes sense. Insurance, after all, is just a pool of money into which we all pay. In determining how much we or our employers pay, risk is taken into account.

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke -- and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you'll get -- then you may have to pay more.”

Why shouldn't we impose the same logic on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?”

Many parents who choose not to vaccinate wonder why it’s anyone else’s business. After all, if your child’s immunized, you don’t have anything to worry about, right? We address this confusion in our Vaccine FAQ:

“…vaccines aren't 100-percent effective; about 95 percent of the protection comes from the vaccine and the remaining protection comes from living in a community where there are low rates of the disease. So for vaccines to keep a disease in check, most people in a community need to be immunized, so they're not contracting and spreading the disease. This way, the few people that are not able to be vaccinatedsay, a child sick with leukemia, or a newborn who hasn't had her shotswill hopefully be protected by what's called ‘herd’ or ‘community’ immunity.”

What do you think: should parents who opt out of immunizations be charged more for their family insurance? Or would such a move inappropriately take medical choices out of the hands of parents?

Plus: Check out our vaccines health guide