Opinion: Don't want the COVID-19 vaccine? Then pay the full cost if you land in the hospital

Many of the arguments about mask mandates and lockdowns are based on disagreements over the appropriate level of risk to place on others and what amount should be left up to the individual to decide.The calculations have changed now that vaccines can be easily obtained (and are always free to recipients), While those who refuse to be vaccinated are no longer a threat to others, they still pose a risk to their health. Hospitalizations for COVID almost exclusively occur in those who have not been vaccinated. This can often lead to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.Who will bear these costs? Our system of risk-sharing means that everyone is responsible, regardless of whether they are covered by government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, or private insurers. If someone refuses to receive the vaccine becomes seriously ill, their bill is paid by taxpayers and other members of their insurance group.But, why should those who have been vaccinated be responsible for these financial costs? The government should direct insurance companies to declare that all COVID-related hospitalizations are covered by them. This declaration will be effective in six weeks.This allows the unvaccinated time to make their own choices based on personal preferences and a greater sense of responsibility. Those who believe COVID is nothing more than a cold or that the pandemic has been a sophisticated fraud or that sheep parasite medicine works better than vaccines can continue to put their money where their mouths and keyboards are.Economic theory teaches us that people will respond to incentives. Just look at the success of vaccine lotteries in encouraging vaccinations. However, letting unvaccinated people pay for COVID-related hospitalizations does not mean that you can use financial pressure to get reluctant vaccine recipients to get vaccinated. It's not about expecting others to pay for what you do. Being true to your beliefs requires you to accept the consequences. It's just talk.This policy has the most common objection: What if insurers do not cover the health effects of lifestyle-driven diseases like Type 2 diabetes or cirrhosis? Or not covering the health costs of those involved in car accidents that result in them being unbelted?Smokers are already charged more by health insurers. In many states, it is also possible to exclude coverage for injuries caused by illegal drugs or alcohol. If these costs are going to be shared, it is reasonable to debate whether certain activities should be subject to higher charges.More importantly, vaccination is directly linked to the possibility of serious COVID complications. This contrasts with the decades-long evolution, mediated through genetics, that has resulted in many health behaviors being associated with serious illness. It would be more fitting to compare Type 2 diabetes with a single, safe cure. We would all be justified in refusing reimbursement for complications of diabetes for those who refuse to pay.Those of us who have been vaccinated took responsibility. The time has come for those who are not vaccinated to take on more responsibility and live up to their ideals of personal freedom and personal responsibility. While some are anxious about the potential risks of the vaccine, they are still waiting. They should not be afraid to take on the financial and health risks that come with it.It is reasonable to complain that mandates and lockdowns infantilize the populace. We should have the ability to choose our risk tolerance. Every aspect of life is full of risks. We don't have the right to impose severe costs on others. Expecting others to pay is not only imprudent, but also makes it more likely that we will face difficult mandates.Real adults are responsible for their choices.Read MarketWatch's daily COVID columnJonathan Meer is the Mary Julia Jordan Jr. and George R. Jordan Jr. Professor of Public Policy. Professor of Public Policy at Texas A&M University, College Station.More: There is hope that more Americans will be willing to receive the COVID-19 shot.CNN fires three employees for coming to work unvaccinated