A modest proposal: no insurance for vaccine rejectionists

insurance claim

Healthcare conspiracies are powerful and long lived. How can we combat health conspiracies among people who don’t understand or don’t believe scientific evidence? I suggest a simple expedient. Insurance companies should refuse to pay for vaccine preventable illness and their complications.

Why are health conspiracies resistant to scientific evidence?

All health care conspiracies — vaccine rejectionism, claims that conventional medicine is suppressing inexpensive alternative “cures”, the insistence that obstetricians want to ruin women’s birth experiences — share one critical feature. They are unfalsifiable. They can never be proven wrong by factual evidence because conspiracy theories predict that there will be reams of evidence contradicting their claims, but that evidence is itself part of the conspiracy.

Basham in the paper Living with Conspiracy published in the Philosophical Forum, Fall 2001, offers a definition of conspiracy:

A “conspiracy theory” is an explanation of important events that hypothesized the intentional deception and manipulation of those involved in, affected by, or witnessing these events… [T]hese deceptions and manipulations are usually thought to express nefarious, even insanely evil, purposes.

Best of all, the conspiracy theory can never be proven wrong:

…[B]ecause conspiracy theorists naturally invoke the idea that the official explanations are in part or whole deceptions, they can rationally interpret evidence against their accounts — official reports, public statements and court of law testimonies … — as evidence for the conspiracy. Falsified evidence is precisely what a conspiracy theory predicts will be produced by the government and other players in ample amounts…

It’s an absolutely brilliant tactic. The vaccine rejectionist responds to the copious evidence against the claim that the government is deliberately poisoning people with vaccines by declaring that the massive amount of evidence proves that there is a conspiracy by the government to poison people with the vaccine. Only a nefarious actor could assemble such overwhelming evidence. The sheer volume of the evidence demonstrates that the evidence is manufactured as part of the conspiracy.

The unfortunate consequence is that it is impossible to show a conspiracy theorist that he is wrong. All evidence, whether bolstering his claims or undermining them, is viewed as supportive evidence of something. It either supports the claim of harm, or if not, supports the existence of the conspiracy to do harm.

Perhaps we should stop trying to prove anything to health conspiracy theorists. Instead, we should let them live with the consequences of their decisions. I have a modest proposal:

In the case of vaccinations, insurance companies should deny coverage for vaccine preventable diseases and their complications in anyone who did not get the recommended vaccinations.

If vaccinations are worthless or harmful, vaccine rejectionists have nothing to worry about. They will never have to pay because they won’t get sick. On the other hand, if they are wrong, they mistake will be illuminated in a way that is very easy to understand; they will literally have to pay for it.