- Some employers are now started to charge unvaccinated employees more health insurance costs.
- They claim they're doing so to encourage workers to be vaccinated and to cover costs associated with COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The policies are comparable to those that apply to smokers on the job.
The majority of employees will continue to have the option of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Employees who refuse to get vaccinated, on the other hand, may face increased health insurance costs.
Many firms have tried offering incentives, such as financial bonuses, to encourage employees to be vaccinated.
Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, recently took a more harsh stance, announcing that unvaccinated employees will face a $200 monthly premium increase on their company-provided health insurance.
According to polls, Americans are split on whether or not unvaccinated workers should pay higher insurance costs.
Employers, on the other hand, have a strong justification for requiring employees to get vaccinated.
The airline's CEO, Ed Bastian, stated in a memo to Delta staff that COVID-19 hospitalizations cost the firm an average of $50,000 per case. He further said that for the previous three weeks, every Delta employee hospitalised for COVID-19 disease had been unvaccinated.
“This premium will be necessary to manage the financial risk that our company faces as a result of our decision not to vaccinate,” stated Bastian.
According to Bastian, unvaccinated Delta Air Lines personnel would be compelled to wear facemasks indoors and undergo weekly COVID-19 tests.
Furthermore, only vaccinated personnel "who are experiencing a breakthrough infection" will be provided wage protection for absences due to COVID-19 infections.
Surcharges have been shown to be useful in increasing vaccination.
Employee vaccination requests have climbed fivefold since the new policy was publicised, according to a lawyer for Delta Air Lines.
According to a survey conducted by the disability insurance company Breeze, 31% of unvaccinated individuals in the United States would acquire the COVID-19 vaccine if their health insurer increased their premiums.
A number of corporations have established for their employees, which they are permitted to do under federal law as a condition of employment.
Insurance surcharges, on the other hand, could become a more regular instrument for driving higher vaccination rates and limiting financial risks for businesses that are hesitant to take that step.
“This is clearly a dialogue that is being addressed now that the initial wave of the pandemic has passed and insurers are no longer waiving treatment costs,” Michael Giusti, a health insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, told Healthline.
“A company with 90 percent of personnel immunised has much less exposure than one with a national average of 50 percent,” he said.
Workers who have been vaccinated are also less likely to start a COVID-19 outbreak, which might put their coworkers in quarantine, bed, or the hospital.
Experts argue the analogy between COVID-19 surcharges and charging more for persons with obesity or hypertension isn't true.
Kenneth L. Campbell, MPH, programme director of Tulane University's online Master of Health Administration programme and assistant professor at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, remarked, "Your chronic condition isn't going to jump to the person in the next cubicle."
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Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at corporate healthcare benefits consulting firm DirectPath, told Healthline that Delta Air Lines’ announcement could open the door for other companies to follow.
“Self-insured companies are going to be very sensitive to this,” she said. “The costs can add up pretty quickly.”
Campbell told Healthline that the recent approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration also will likely spur more companies to consider vaccine mandates and surcharges.
So could a federal court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by employees of Houston Methodist Hospital who had challenged the healthcare system’s vaccine mandate.
“This is a wakeup call for people to get vaccinated,” said Campbell. “We’re talking about bad decisions in terms of not getting vaccinated and these are the consequences.”
Buckey said that employers struggling to retain staff may be reluctant to add surcharges that could alienate a percentage of their workforce.
Companies that want to impose COVID-19 surcharges on health insurance premiums could also face some legal and regulatory hurdles.
Campbell pointed out that healthcare companies can legally charge up to a 50 percent surcharge to smokers.
However, Giusti said that smoking surcharges are allowed under a specific exception under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which otherwise prohibits discrimination based on health status.
“We’ll have to see if these COVID surcharges stand up,” he said.