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SALT LAKE CITY – People who say they are sick with certain diseases can jump to the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine. When that person shows up to get their shot, no one is going to ask for proof. It's all on the honor system, Utah state and county health officials have said.
But even if there isn't a legal consequence, people who lie may, indeed, be punished. The KSL Investigators found there actually could be a financial penalty for lying about being ill to get a vaccine.
If you tell a county health department that you have a comorbidity, that creates a health record. And health records are a favorite tool for insurance companies when trying to determine if you're worthy of life insurance.
"If it's in your medical records, that life insurance company is going to take it to be true," said Brian King, an attorney who specializes in fighting with life insurance companies to get them to pay claims.
King said having a serious medical condition listed in health records can mean anything from having to pay more for life insurance to not qualifying for life insurance at all. It could even give a life insurance company an excuse not to pay your family after you die.
"People don't think about this," King said. "They don't think about their future. They're looking at the immediate need or desire that they have to jump the line and get vaccinated sooner rather than later. It can come back and bite you real hard."
(People) don't think about their future. They're looking at the immediate need or desire that they have to jump the line and get vaccinated sooner rather than later. It can come back and bite you real hard.
–Brian King, attorney
Utah Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, has worked on a lot of insurance-related laws in his time on the hill. He has seen how what it says on a person's medical records can be incredibly costly to them.
"Insurance companies routinely request medical records," Thurston said.
Thurston said people routinely lie on their life insurance applications to keep premiums low — for example, claiming not to smoke when they do. This would be the opposite of that — lying about being sicker.
Thurston said this territory is a bit uncharted and that time will tell how much life insurance companies lean on medical records created in the process of getting vaccinated when determining a customer's risk. But he agreed with King that it is conceivable it could cost a person their insurance.
"If somebody writes on the form, 'I have diabetes,' or, 'I have uncontrolled blood pressure,' that form would create a record and the life insurance company could go get that one," Thurston said.
Medical records are, of course, not public records, and health departments won't share them with life insurance companies without a patient's permission. But a life insurance company can refuse to insure that patient if they refuse to give permission to see medical records.
"We expect people to be honest," Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nick Rupp told KSL TV, even though he knows that expectation is a bit pie-in-the-sky.
The county encountered liars even before the criteria were expanded to allow people with certain comorbidities to get the vaccine in Utah.
"We have had a few people who already through the system have lied about their date of birth to be eligible sooner than they should be," he said.