Republican Pandemic Fiscal Profligacy

So much for being fiscally responsible

Jerry LeClaireSep 1
Found circulating as a text message

Local Republican elected officials (Rep. Rob Chase, for example) and local far right Republican agitators (former Rep. Matt Shea and Caleb Collier) have been busy spreading harebrained arguments and declarations against mask and vaccination mandates. These folks and other Republicans preach fiscal responsibility. Fiscal responsibility is still one their leading arguments against both of the infrastructure bills currently before the U.S. Congress. What about fiscal responsibility in dealing with the Covid pandemic?

Overwhelmingly, it is the unvaccinated (and often the unmasked) who are showing up for treatment of Covid pneumonia. Local hospitals and emergency rooms are cancelling elective procedures and scrambling to gather staff, drugs, and equipment to treat these people. A stay in a hospital Intensive Care Unit for Covid pneumonia, whether ending in death, disability, or a cure, typically runs well over $100,000. And that ignores the personal and societal financial costs of disability, long Covid, and death. The two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines that would have prevented or greatly lessened the severity of Covid illness cost the U.S. government about $40. That same $100,000 medical expense invested in vaccination would have protected 2500 people. 

We pay those $100,000 bills collectively. We pay them collectively through insurance—or through medical bankruptcy. Insurance is, after all, a collective enterprise. We pay a monthly fee that frees us (to some small degree) from the fear of a bill that might bankrupt us. It is out of those monthly fees that we all, ultimately, pay the Covid-19 hospital bills. (Yes, that’s even true of Medicare. It’s just that the Medicare insurance premiums are taken out of your paycheck during your working life.) If your insurance falls short and your own funds are inadequate, you face medical bankruptcy. In a bankruptcy all the people and institutions to whom you owe money have to settle for less. Seen a slightly different way, all those people and institutions share in paying a legally prescribed portion of your medical bill. 

Fiscal responsibility would be to strongly encourage people to get vaccinated—including financial and societal incentives. A logical financial incentive might include a discount in monthly health insurance premium for those with proof of vaccination. After all, it will cost more, on average, to pay the medical bills of an unvaccinated person. Shouldn’t I be offered the “freedom” to not have to pay their medical bills with my health care insurance premiums? Doesn’t “freedom” include accepting the fiscal consequences of one’s choices? Insurance companies of all types carve out exceptions in every policy. That’s how insurance companies make money: they balance risk versus premiums collected and reap a percentage of the transaction.

I am not in favor of a governmental mandate requiring everyone to be vaccinated, but I am in favor of fiscal prudence, a virtue that Republicans have abandoned in their drive to garner the votes of those who put the fiscal burden of their vaccination decisions on the rest of us. “Freedom” cuts many ways. 

Republicans ought to be in favor of the “freedom” of restaurant owners, a concert venue, and other businesses to require vaccination of their customers. After all, such a requirement could be a straightforward business decision. I’m certainly more likely to go inside a business where I’m assured that everyone is vaccinated. This is free enterprise, another supposed Republican value. After all, Republicans and their Religious Right celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision that freed a Colorado businessman, a baker, from requiring him to serve a gay couple by baking a wedding cake. Perhaps the baker thought this a wise business decision that would attract a certain type of customer to his shop. The Supremes said he was free to make that choice. Freedom to require vaccination is more compelling. It not only a business choice, but a choice with positive health consequences.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The theme for this post came from an article by Syndicated Columnist Froma Harrop that appeared in the Spokesman in the electron-only Saturday, August 28 edition. Harrop’s column is worth reading for its concentration on the national scene of pandemic fiscal policy. 

P.P.S. For Republican distorted fiscal reasoning there is no better example than the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. Last month by executive order he banned both vaccine mandates and mask mandates for his state. He went unmasked to a Republican fundraiser (where most of the participants were also unmasked) on Monday, August 16. The next day it was reported that Abbott tested positive for Covid on a routine test. That in itself is interesting. The rest of us don’t get daily Covid tests, but the rest of the story is even more interesting. Abbott not only was vaccinated AND got an off label booster shot, but he, being a man of great privilege I suppose, received a dose of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment, the same expensive treatment that may have saved Trump’s life. Note that the price tag of Regeneron’s treatment is $2100 and the treatment is meant for “people at considerable risk of developing severe Covid symptoms, including millions of Americans with compromised immune systems.” Abbott, according to news accounts, had no symptoms at all. I wonder how many parents of Covid infected, unmasked children will come down with a severe case of the disease thanks to Abbott’s mandate, while the governor affords himself lavish protection. How many of those infected parents won’t have been vaccinated on account of ban of mandates and how many of them will have the fiscal wherewithal get an expensive preventative treatment? How much will will we all pay in order to treat these people AND to afford Abbott with the very best medical care?