Delta Air Lines employees who remain unvaccinated will soon have to pay an extra $200 each month — described by the company as a healthcare "surcharge" to "address the financial risk" being unvaccinated creates for the business.
Delta published a memo from CEO Ed Bastian Wednesday morning detailing the new surcharge. The policy goes into effect Nov. 1, 2021, and applies to employees who are enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan.
"The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person," the memo says, adding that in recent weeks (amid the delta variant surge), all Delta employees hospitalized for COVID-19 were unvaccinated.
Employees who aren't vaccinated face a few new protocols as well:
- They are now required to wear a mask in all indoor Delta settings until community transmission rates "stabilize".
- They will have to take a COVID-19 test weekly, starting Sept. 12.
- Starting Sept. 30, they will no longer be eligible for COVID pay protection — only fully vaccinated individuals who have a breakthrough infection will qualify.
"Over the past few weeks, the fight has changed with the rise of the B.1.617.2 [delta] variant — a very aggressive form of the virus," Bastian's memo says, later saying "the variant has resulted in a significant rise in hospitalizations and deaths, almost entirely impacting those who have not yet been vaccinated."
Bastian says the company has reached a 75% vaccination rate overall, describing it as a "milestone" that "puts us one step closer to getting back to what we do best." But the delta variant means "we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100% as possible."
Delta is the latest in a string of businesses and organizations that are either outright requiring workers get vaccinated, or placing additional restrictions on those who don't.
A health insurance surcharge is a bit new, and there are legal and compliance considerations for which businesses have to account, Fierce Healthcare reported.
Surcharges are one potential avenue for incentivizing employees to get vaccinated, and could be legal if instituted as a HIPAA compliant wellness program, an employment law attorney told WTSP in Florida.
A study released last week from Health System Tracker found 76,000 preventable COVID hospitalizations among unvaccinated American adults in July alone. These hospitalizations cost an estimated $1.5 billion