6 in 10 Americans say COVID-19 vax should be required to receive Medicare benefits

Key Findings

  • 61% of Americans want COVID vaccine mandated for Medicare beneficiaries
  • Top reason why Americans support a vaccine mandate for Medicare beneficiaries is that unvaccinated people are a threat to public health (60%)
  • 44% of unvaccinated Medicare beneficiaries will unenroll if vaccination is mandated
  • 4 in 10 Americans think unvaccinated Medicare beneficiaries should pay out-of-pocket for treatment if they get COVID

Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun granting full approval to COVID-19 vaccines, the majority of Americans believe Medicare should require vaccination against the virus as a prerequisite for receiving benefits.

This is according to a survey of 1,250 American adults conducted by MedicarePlans.com in September.

61% of Americans favor Medicare mandates for COVID vax, with exemptions

Twenty-three percent of Americans want COVID-19 vaccines mandated for Medicare beneficiaries, without exemptions.

Twenty-one percent support a mandate that offers medical exemptions, while 17% favor a mandate that allows for medical and religious exemptions.

The remaining 39% of respondents oppose a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for receiving Medicare benefits.

Current Medicare recipients support mandate the most

Among respondents who are currently enrolled in Medicare, 74% support a vaccine mandate, including 29% who believe it should be required without any religious or medical exemptions.

As for those who aren’t currently enrolled in Medicare, only 52% support a COVID vaccine mandate, with 48% opposed.

Regardless of whether they’re currently enrolled in Medicare, unvaccinated adults are most likely to oppose a mandate. Sixty-seven percent of unvaccinated respondents say Medicare shouldn’t require the vaccine, compared to just 27% of people who are vaccinated.

Among respondents who are already vaccinated against COVID-19, 24% support a mandate with medical exemptions, and 21% support a mandate with exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

Proponents say mandate is fair because unvaxxed are a danger, drive up costs

The top reason why supporters favor mandated vaccines is because unvaccinated people are a threat to public health (60%).

Fifty-six percent of Americans who support a mandate say it is because unvaccinated people are straining medical resources and driving up costs, while 54% want vaccines mandated because Medicare beneficiaries are among the vulnerable populations who are at a greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID.

4 in 10 unvaxxed Medicare beneficiaries willing to forfeit benefits if vax is required

Among current Medicare enrollees who are not vaccinated, 44% are willing to forgo their Medicare benefits if it means they must get the shot. An additional 22% of Medicare beneficiaries are undecided.

Meanwhile, 32% of unvaccinated individuals who are not currently enrolled in Medicare say they would opt to not join the program if it meant they had to get vaccinated. Thirty-three percent of those in the same situation are undecided about what they would do.

If not mandated, 44% want unvaxxed to pay out of pocket for COVID treatment

Even if the COVID vaccine isn’t required for Medicare enrollment, some Americans think unvaccinated beneficiaries should pay a penalty for not being vaccinated, in the form of paying out of pocket for COVID tests and treatments.

Forty-four percent of respondents want unvaccinated Medicare enrollees to pay out-of-pocket for their COVID treatment, while 43% want them to pay for COVID-19 tests.

These proposals have more support among those who are already vaccinated, with 54% saying unvaccinated people should pay for both their tests and treatment out of pocket.

Meanwhile, the majority of unvaccinated Americans say “no” to paying out of pocket for treatments (75%) and tests (73%).


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by MedicarePlans.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 American adults were surveyed. This survey was conducted on September 17, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Julia Morrissey at [email protected].