Unvaccinated workers pay more for health insurance with some companies: NPR



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COVID cases are on the rise in the United States and close to 20% of adults are still unvaccinated. Now some companies impose fees on those who refuse shots. NPR’s Andrea Hsu explains.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: It started with Delta Airlines. This summer, as COVID cases increased, the airline made news with a policy that seemed new and a little cheeky.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Breaking news in the last hour – Delta Airlines raises health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees by $ 200 more per month.

HSU: Delta CEO Ed Bastian defended the policies of the Detroit Economic Club.

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ED BASTIAN: The average cost of a COVID hospitalization for Delta is $ 50,000. We have spent a huge amount of money in the last year and a half – very sad situations.

HSU: At another recent event, Dr. Henry Ting, Delta’s head of health, said the decision to go with a supplement instead of a vaccine mandate was informed of everything they have learned about people’s behavior.

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HENRY TING: There’s a group of people who simply do not want to be told what to do.

HSU: With the supplement, workers still have a choice. Now only a small number of companies have done this, raising health insurance premiums for unvaccinated workers. But it’s an interesting mix that includes Utah grocery chain Harmons and Wall Street banking giant JPMorgan Chase. If you are wondering if this is legal, the answer is yes when it happens through something called a workplace wellness program.

SABRINA CORLETTE: Your wellness program could simply be that I want to encourage all my employees to be vaccinated – full stop.

HSU: It’s Sabrina Corlette from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. She says federal law allows companies to reward employees for achieving goals or punishing them for falling short as long as it is part of a wellness program.

CORLETTE: They can set a goal for BMI or body mass index. And if you hit that goal, you get a discount on your premium, but if you do not, you pay the same premium or a little bit more.

HSU: Some companies use incentives for wellness programs to get people to quit smoking. Now companies need to provide housing for people who have legitimate reasons for not achieving the goals – for example, if your doctor says it is medically inadvisable for you to get a COVID vaccine. Corlette says the goal for employers is to have healthier, more productive workforces.

CORLETTE: And spending less on total health care costs.

HSU: Delta would not say how many of its employees pay $ 200 more each month for health care, but CEO Ed Bastian recently reported that after the policy was announced, Delta’s vaccination rate increased.

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BASTIAN: From 75% to today, we are over 90% vaccinated.

HSU: And it’s not just Delta. Mercy Health, which operates hospitals and clinics in Illinois and Wisconsin, experienced a similar jump in vaccinations after announcing its own fee for unvaccinated workers.

ALEN BRCIC: Subtract $ 60 a month from their salary.

HSU: It’s Alen Brcic, vice president of people and culture at Mercy Health. He says $ 60 a month is nominal. It does not come close to covering the costs of the business when someone is out with COVID. Still, it is a reminder to the hundreds of workers who pay the fee that there is a risk of being unvaccinated. He says it may cause some people to reconsider their decision.

BRCIC: Our goal is really to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, but also to make sure people have that choice.

HSU: Brcic is now afraid that the election may disappear. The federal government has issued a vaccine mandate to most healthcare professionals with very few exceptions. He says only a small number of Mercy Health employees resign above the $ 60 fee. He is afraid that more people will do it if they are forced to get the vaccine. Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

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