That didn’t last very long…
Delta’s $200 monthly fee for unvaccinated employees
While virtually all airlines in the United States have encouraged employees to get vaccinated, they’ve taken very different approaches when it comes to incentivizing people to do so. Among the “big three” US carriers, United took the hardest stance in requiring employees to be vaccinated.
Delta didn’t go nearly that far, but in August 2021 the airline announced new restrictions for unvaccinated employees. The two most significant restrictions were as follows:
- As of September 30, 2021, COVID pay protection was only provided to fully vaccinated employees
- As of November 1, 2021, unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan were subjected to a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge
As you can see, most significantly, all unvaccinated employees would be looking at spending up to an additional $2,400 per year for healthcare. At the time, Delta justified this by explaining that the average hospital stay for COVID-19 had cost Delta $40,000 per person, so this was intended to address that financial risk. At the time, all Delta employees who had been hospitalized due to coronavirus were unvaccinated.
Delta drops unvaccinated healthcare surcharge
It has just been revealed that Delta has dropped the $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated employees, as the company instead looks to treat coronavirus as a seasonal disease. This was announced this morning by Delta CEO Ed Bastian during the company’s first quarter earnings call.
In other words, the company isn’t really doing a whole lot to encourage employees to get vaccinated anymore. My thoughts on vaccines are no secret, and personally I’m a fan of the approach United took in requiring vaccination, since it both reduces your odds of getting coronavirus, and more importantly reduces your odds of becoming seriously ill.
For the most part I’m disappointed by this development from Delta. At the same time, I can’t say it’s that illogical. Why? Over time policies should evolve to reflect the science:
- According to virtually every study we’ve seen, you have the highest level of protection if you’ve been recently vaccinated or boosted
- Delta has only penalized those who are unvaccinated, rather than those who haven’t been boosted
- If the goal is to pass on some of the cost of hospitalization to those who pose the biggest risk, you’d think that they’d also penalize those who got their last shot over a year ago, since they have limited protection
So while I think Delta’s healthcare surcharge was a good policy for encouraging vaccination, I’m not sure it’s as effective as it could be in preventing serious illness if there’s not also a booster requirement.
It’s the same reason I think a blanket mask requirement is silly, since it does nothing to differentiate between a cloth mask and an N95, even though they offer drastically different levels of protection.
Delta will no longer charge unvaccinated employees a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge, as the airline looks to treat coronavirus more as a seasonal illness rather than a pandemic. In the end, this policy was only in place for several months, so it’s interesting to see it eliminated already.
What do you make of Delta dropping its surcharge for unvaccinated employees?