SALT LAKE CITY — Unvaccinated employees at Harmons, the upscale grocery store chain in Utah, will pay more for health insurance as the company cites rising public health and safety concerns concerning COVID-19.
Effective Jan. 1, Employees at the grocery chain who do not receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be charged an insurance premium surcharge of up to $200 per month, according to Harmons officials.
“I think it’s entirely appropriate, they are making it a choice to put themselves at higher risk, so by paying more, they bear the price of higher risk,” said shopper Anita Hall.
The chain has 19 locations across Utah.
"Harmons top concern is the safety and well-being of our associates. Over 86% of our associates are vaccinated and we believe this and the other safety measures we have taken, have kept our associates safe through the pandemic," the company said in a statement to FOX 13.
"Studies show the average cost of a COVID hospitalization is $50,000 and the risk of being hospitalized is dramatically increased for those who are not vaccinated."
Utah’s state epidemiologist says unvaccinated people who get covid are 9 times more likely to die, and 7 and a half times more likely to be hospitalized.
“It costs a lot, so it is true that these insurance policies have to consider that in their whole process of how to charge. There’s no such thing as a perfect vaccine, but these are very close,” said Leisha Nolen, UDOH state epidemiologist.
Harmons' decision is not without precedent. In September, Delta Air Lines announced its unvaccinated employees would be charged an $200 a month for insurance. At the time, 20,000 of the company's 80,000 employees had yet to be vaccinated.
The move differs from other companies that are mandating their employees receive COVID-19 vaccines to continue working within their organizations. Intermountain Healthcare, Utah's largest employer, announced Wednesday that they will require all caregivers to be vaccinated.
Harmons will require all of its pharmacy employees to be vaccinated.
In the statement, officials with Harmons say the extra charge is a way to keep costs low for the majority of employees.
"We have an obligation to keep the cost of insurance as low as possible for our people and having as many people vaccinated as possible will help with this goal."
According to Harmons Grocery, over 86 percent of their associates are vaccinated and they have self-funded insurance plans.
The new policy at Harmons will be effective January 1st.