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Seeking Balance in Vaccination Laws

February 7, 2015 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

With the recent reemergence of measles in the U.S.—a highly contagious viral infection that was once presumed eradicated by the measles vaccine—calls have come from various quarters for the mandatory vaccination of people against communicable diseases. This has made its way into politics, as various potential Presidential candidates feverishly assert their support for getting immunized, while at the same time trying painstakingly to avoid any controversy.

The issue of mandatory vaccination is a thorny one for libertarians. A tension exists between the rights of the individual and the rights of the general public. No person should be forced to have something injected into one’s body—whether or not it is potentially harmful or life threatening. On the other hand, other members of the community also have a right to be free from force. And a threat to their health or life by a person carrying a highly contagious disease can be a form of aggression. The challenge lies in achieving a proper balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the general public to both be free from aggression.

The issue of mandatory vaccination is a thorny one for libertarians. A tension exists between the rights of the individual and the rights of the general public.”

It has recently been suggested that mandatory vaccination be a precondition for enrollment in Medicaid. After all, “if you want the taxpayer to pick up the tab, you follow standards of care.” Otherwise the taxpayer winds up picking up an even bigger tab if the Medicaid patient contracts a serious infectious illness. This proposal makes sense.

Even under the Affordable Care Act, nobody is forced to seek taxpayer-funded health care through a government-run exchange. It is a voluntary transaction. The person who seeks enrollment in Medicaid is not prohibited from using cash or charity or purchasing private health insurance (free of subsidies) outside of any exchange.

Private health insurance companies, of course, should have every right to require vaccination as a condition of selling the policy to a subscriber—or to risk-adjust the premium rate for those who choose not to get vaccinated. This is a private, voluntary transaction. Notice I wrote, “should.” Under the ACA, the costs of those who choose to not get vaccinated get passed along to everyone, because insurance is “community rated” and “guaranteed issue” under the ACA. Under the ACA people may not be charged different premiums …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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