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Zan* and the Art of Motorcycle Insurance

Let’s stop wasting time and deepening societal divisions by hating and humiliating the unvaccinated, and simply make them pay their fair share
© Copyright Steven Greenberg 2014. All rights reserved. ~~ *(“Zan” is Hebrew for “variant”)

I rode this sexy machine (“sexy” in the old-man, never-heard-of-fuel-injection sense of the term) almost every day for 15 years. Rain or shine, night or day, over some of the most congested roads in the country—it was my primary mode of transportation.

It was risky behavior, no question. And because the likelihood of getting squashed was far greater than that of the Volvo owners I frequently left in my dust, I paid a hefty premium on my mandatory insurance (“bituah hova” in Hebrew – Israel’s government-mandated personal vehicle injury insurance). How hefty? Nearly FIVE TIMES more than even the smallest automobile.

It’s a simple actuarial reality: greater risk equals greater premium. We all tacitly accept it, and we all pay it. Motorcyclists pay higher insurance rates—so do smokers, mountain climbers, and skydivers. These higher rates don’t prevent people from engaging in risky behavior, but they do force them to bear their fair share of the potential cost to society. Nobody complains.

What does this have to do with COVID?

Emmanuel Macron’s recent tirade against the unvaccinated, which echoes similar sentiments from our own Prime Minister, is governmental impotence incarnate. Frustrated by the ineffectiveness of their vaccine policies, they seem to be trying a “more of the same, but with vitriol” approach.

In parenting terms, the current approach to raising vaccination rates is equivalent to trying to get your teenager to clean her room by relentlessly calling her a slob. It doesn’t work (believe me, I’ve tried). But you know what does work? Making her pay for cleaning services.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (or Healthcare)

Why are governments really so up in arms about vaccination? It’s not principle. It’s because it’s insanely expensive to build and maintain the healthcare infrastructure needed to care for the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” currently afflicting us. It’s not impossible to add the capacity of care for the large portion of the populace that will potentially need it because they’ve chosen to forgo vaccination – it’s just really costly.

So why are we still giving the unvaccinated a free ride?

 In Israel, we pay a hefty national health insurance tax – a bit over 3% on the first NIS 6K or so of income and 5% on income above this, up to a cap. This, on top our already heavy overall tax burden, compared to other OECD countries. Add to that the private health insurance many of us carry, and it’s a sizable chunk of change every month, by any standards.

Rather than publicly vilifying those who have chosen the clearly risky behavior of not vaccinating themselves and their children, let’s just accept it. Of course, like any other risky behavior, their behavior carries a price tag. So, starting tomorrow, double the health tax for those eligible for vaccination, but who choose not to vaccinate themselves. Or triple it. Encourage private insurance companies to follow suit, including those who provide travel insurance. Use the revenue generated to fund whatever temporary medical facilities are required to accommodate the additional COVID patients, and to fund the long-term care they’ll potentially require.

As I’ve written before, meanness is not effective policy. In government as in parenting, coercion needs to be smart and, crucially, dispassionate. Let’s stop wasting time and deepening societal divisions by hating and humiliating the unvaccinated, and simply make them pay their fair share.

About the Author
Steven Greenberg is an award-winning novelist (see , a professional writer (see, and a full-time cook, cleaner, chauffeur and single dad for three young adults (see his dishpan hands). Born in Texas, Steven grew up in Indiana and emigrated to Israel just months before the first Gulf War in 1990. He's a former combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces, who never learned to properly salute despite his rank of Sergeant. And he's a career marketer, who's run a home-grown marketing boutique since 2002.
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