If You're Unvaccinated, You Could Soon Get Charged More for This Every Month

Companies are looking into adding this surcharge for those who are not vaccinated.

As the Delta variant ravages the U.S., many restaurants, concert venues, and theaters across the country have started requiring proof of vaccination in order to try to stop the spread. New York City will even start requiring people to be vaccinated before they enter certain indoor establishments soon—and other major cities, like Los Angeles, are considering making similar mandates. But getting barred from indoor places may just be the tip of the iceberg for those who are not yet unvaccinated.

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In recent weeks, many large companies have announced vaccine mandates for their employees, including Facebook, Google, Tyson Foods, and Microsoft. "With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce," Claudia Coplein, DO, the chief medical officer for Tyson Foods, said in an Aug. 3 statement.

But some employers are still hesitant to enforce vaccinations, especially since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to fully approve any of the COVID vaccines. Delta Air Lines, for example, has said that's part of what's holding them back from requiring the COVID vaccine for employees. "It's very difficult for us to come in and mandate a vaccine that isn't even federally approved yet, the authorization hasn't been final yet," Ed Bastian, Delta's chief executive officer, told CNBC's Squawk Box earlier this month. "So stay tuned," he added, hinting the vaccine could be required once the FDA makes that move.

However, unvaccinated workers may still be treated differently by their companies in other ways, even if vaccination is not required. Wade Symons, leader of the regulatory resources group at Mercer, a major consulting firm that works with thousands of employers around the world, told USA Today that many clients have recently inquired about how to charge unvaccinated employees more for their health insurance.

"It's something we've just started getting questions about in the last couple of weeks," Symons said. "The number of questions has been surprising in the volume. This is something they're more willing to take on. It's less than a mandate."

According to Symons, this increase would be similar to how some employers have a surcharge for workers who smoke. The increase for unvaccinated people could be anywhere from an additional $20 to $50 each paycheck. "Unvaccinated folks have the potential to cost employers more from a health care cost perspective, so they're feeling they're justified in that additional surcharge," Symons explained.

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Symons sees this additional surcharge as another attempt for companies to incentivize employees to get vaccinated, without actually mandating it. Over the past few months, various companies have offered gift cards, days off, cash, and other perks for workers who get their COVID shots. For instance, Walmart just increased its $75 vaccination bonus to $150.

"Employers have tried encouraging employees to get vaccinated through offering incentives like paid time off and cash," Symons told Forbes.

According to Forbes, Symons would not disclose which particular companies have inquired about unvaccinated health insurance increases. But, he said, "with the Delta variant driving up infections and hospitalizations throughout the country—at the same time that vaccination rates have stalled—we have received inquiries from at least 20 employers over the past few weeks who are giving consideration to adding health coverage surcharges for the unvaccinated as a way to drive up vaccination rates in their workforce."

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