LEHI, Utah — Delta Airlines announced Wednesday employees unvaccinated against COVID-19 will start paying $200 a month more for insurance coverage starting November first and other companies may implement the same policy.
The airline cited increased costs and risks for unvaccinated individuals.
More companies who utilize self-funded medical insurance could follow suit, the president of Blackrock Benefits in Lehi said.
“If someone has a severe case of COVID and they are hospitalized for a month, those costs directly go to the company and that’s a big part on the self-funding side and with any company but will come back and directly affect the employees bottom-line and the employer,” Bret Harding said.
Self-funded medical insurance means the employer is responsible for the employee’s healthcare claims instead of a large insurance provider. This type of coverage is generally used by large companies, but more medium sized companies are joining in, Harding said.
Delta Airlines reported the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost the airline $40,000 per employee, none of whom had been vaccinated. Hospital stays and long hauler COVID-19 symptoms are costing employers a lot of money and that is why from a financial standpoint more companies may follow, Harding said.
“They have a big incentive to make sure the risk is managed properly and a lot of that is what we are seeing now. A lot of companies are coming out and saying we want you to get vaccinated or mandate it or require it as part of their employment,” he said.
Companies requiring the vaccine, offering incentives or penalties to those who get vaccinated or don’t get vaccinated is legal, Spencer Phillips, Attorney at Employer Lawyer, said. Employees have the right to refuse but then will lose their jobs.
“Businesses have free reign. If they want to charge for certain kinds of increased risk, which might be the situation with Delta, they are able to do so and tie it to insurance,” he said.
In most cases companies have a legal obligation to offer accommodations for religious reasons or a disability.
This type of extra cost for insurance coverage for unvaccinated individuals could span beyond individual companies with self-funded insurance, Harding said.
“There is definitely speculation out there and carriers that are considering, saying yeah you are potentially going to pay more in premium if you don’t get your vaccination because of that same premise, right you are potentially going to cost the carriers more,” he said.
There is a risk to employers during this time surrounding vaccines, Philips said.
“When you tie a vaccination to someone’s livelihood and if they have a strong reason for not getting the vaccination then all the sudden their livelihood is at risk and that is leading is complaints and that is leading to lawsuits and I think we are going to continue to see that grow,” he said.