Delta Adds Healthcare Surcharge For Unvaccinated Employees

Delta Adds Healthcare Surcharge For Unvaccinated Employees

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While virtually all airlines have encouraged employees to get vaccinated, airlines have taken different approaches when it comes to the incentives and requirements surrounding this. Among airlines in the United States, United Airlines has been the leader, requiring all employees to get vaccinated (both Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines matched).

American and Delta haven’t gone quite as far, but with the vaccine now having received full FDA approval, Delta is introducing some interesting policies.

Delta adds restrictions on unvaccinated employees

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has today sent a memo to employees, outlining new restrictions that the company is putting in place for unvaccinated employees. It’s claimed that 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated, which seems disappointingly low for a company that relies on an end to the pandemic to stay profitable.

As the memo explains, these new restrictions are due to rising case numbers. Unsurprisingly, the Atlanta-based airline doesn’t refer to it as the “delta variant,” but rather the “B.1.617.2 variant.”

Unvaccinated Delta employees face the following four new restrictions:

  • Effective immediately, all unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks in all indoor settings; this will remain in place until community case rates stabilize
  • Starting September 12, 2021, any US employee who is not fully vaccinated will be required to take a COVID test each week while community case rates are high
  • Starting September 30, 2021, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated employees who are experiencing a breakthrough infection
  • Starting November 1, 2021, unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta’s account-based healthcare plan will be subject to a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge

As you can see, most significantly all unvaccinated employees will have to get tested once per week, and will also have to pay a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge, which comes out to $2,400 per year — that’s pretty significant.

As Delta describes the new healthcare surcharge, the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person, so this is intended to address that “financial risk.” All Delta employees who have been hospitalized due to coronavirus have been unvaccinated.

Bastian finishes with this very nice paragraph:

“Protecting yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones and your community is fundamental to the shared values that have driven our success for nearly a century. Vaccinations are the safest, most effective, and most powerful tool we have to achieve our goals, live up to our values and move forward.”

Is Delta going far enough with these restrictions?

I find Delta’s approach here to be curious — with the vaccine now fully approved, what’s stopping the airline from going so far as to fully mandate vaccination? I suppose there are a couple of ways to look at this.

On the one hand, I think these new restrictions will almost have the same impact as outright adding a vaccine mandate. Weekly testing requirements and an extra $2,400 per year in healthcare costs will cause most vaccine hesitant employees to choose to get jabbed.

At the same time, why isn’t Delta going all the way?

  • With full FDA approval, requiring vaccination shouldn’t be controversial, especially as the pandemic continues to rage in the United States
  • These restrictions disproportionately impact lower paid employees — $200 per month isn’t a lot for a Delta A350 captain making $300K+ per year, while it’s a lot for a ramper being paid one-tenth as much

Bottom line

While 75% of Delta’s workforce is now vaccinated, the airline is adding new restrictions for the 25% of employees who aren’t, given rising case numbers. Among other things, unvaccinated employees will have to get tested weekly, and will also have to pay a $200 monthly healthcare surcharge.

While Delta isn’t going quite as far as adding a full vaccine mandate for employees, for all practical purposes I think this should have the same impact… almost.

What do you make of Delta’s new policies for unvaccinated employees? What percent of the remaining 25% of employees do you think will choose to get vaccinated with these new restrictions?

Conversations (70)
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  1. Harry

    Why wouldn’t they accept naturally aquire immunity? I get why you want employees to be immune to covid, but whether this immunity is acquired through prior infection or vaccination shouldn’t matter.

  2. Gaurav

    Some related reporting posits that DL and AA are trying to avoid mandates to avoid annoying the R politicians in their home states whereas UA is not similarly restricted in Chicago.

  3. Felix Meyer

    This is a good move. Kudos to the employees who have voluntarily been vaccinated for their own health and that of others! At the same time it forces anti vaccine person's to accept economic impact for their convictions,while helping to mitigate the community costs for those convictions. But most importantly to remember is that, this is still their choice!!!

  4. Don

    Dems love telling people what to do

    1. UA-NYC

      Cause the Republicans are too stupid to take care of themselves, and will follow a leader off a cliff like lemmings...yup

  5. Eskimo

    People in the USA still don't get it.

    We are here arguing about charging premiums for vaccines, obesity, smoking, preexisting conditions, etc.

    This only shows how BROKEN OUR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS.

  6. Jerry

    Can we all just stop lying and saying vaccinated people don’t spread the virus? It’s not about others safety anymore. The vaccine will help YOU not get super sick, but it doesn’t help you from spreading it to others.

    1. Richard_

      My impression is that it reduces spread, but does not eliminate it.

    2. Aaron

      Correct. The vaccine does not give you immunity. It simply reduces the viral load, should you contract the virus. So, it does nothing to reduce spread between people.

    3. David

      Partially correct. If you're vaccinated, you're less likely to be infected in the first place. Less infected people means less spread.

  7. Ole

    I don’t think they go far enough. Should have been twice weekly tests paid for by the employee and $350 health insurance surcharge. Plus any shifts lost due to Covid infection should be deducted from that employee’s PTO balance.

    1. Tim Dunn

      the federal government is paying for all covid testing and vaccines.

  8. John

    There is a massive loophole. If you are not on Delta's healthcare plan, aka on your own plane or yor spouses, you don't have to pay the $200 fee. This is something to navigate the stupid Republican governor in Georgia and not anything strong like what United has.

    It is better than nothing and a smart way to navigate the south's hate for mandates

    Source: Current employee

  9. Donna

    Good for Delta! More companies will hopefully follow.

  10. Richard_

    Good for Delta!

    Many posters here do not seem to be aware that obesity, alcoholism, etc., etc., are not highly contagious diseases that can easily and safely (on an absolute scale and even more so compared to covid) be ameliorated with a simple vaccination.

    1. Tim Dunn

      Delta specifically said that the purpose of its surcharge was based on cost. Other things it is requiring such as covid testing and mask wearing for the unvaccinated are based on contagious risk.
      It is a both/and strategy.
      And heart disease and other issues you noted do increase employer costs which is why there is a surcharge (or inability to get a discount) on those behaviors.

    2. David

      I'm completely speculating here, but working for another large corporation that implemented similar policies my guess is that the $200 surcharge is only partially financially motivated. We also looked for ways to mandate a vaccine without actually mandating it by simply making it extra annoying to be unvaccinated.

  11. beachmouse

    I suspect that Legal told them that $200/month was the most they could get away with under some sort of ‘willingness to participate in an employee wellness program’ clause

  12. Nil

    For every common sense rule and an article, there is a deluge of morons protesting it in the comments section citing random delusional thoughts!

  13. Evan

    I understand Delta’s approach. Too many people take the view that it’s their choice whether to get vaccinated or not AND there should be no consequences to that decision. Yes, it is your choice whether to get vaccinated or not, but every decision has a consequence. Well, here’s the consequence…you still have a choice, it’s just going to cost you $200 a month.

  14. EC2

    Just to add accuracy to your post Pfizer-Biotech is still under an extended EUA. The approved vaccine that isn’t out yet is Comirnaty. Pfizer still want legal liability waived. The approved one is the one that can be mandated by employers but has to be available to get. The vaccines will largely be the same but there is a distinct legal difference between the 2.

  15. Ben L.

    Alonzo is throwing a bizarre diaper tantrum because he hates fat people

    1. Alonzo

      Hate is such a strong word. But I only throw tantrums on the weekends.

  16. Aaron

    So let's also require weekly blood pressure checks and blood glucose levels. Might as well throw in weekly physical fitness tests too, like push-ups and sit-ups. Surely, being healthy and physically fit leads to lower healthcare costs for Delta, so why not mandate that too?

    1. David

      Because you are free to be unhealthy and kill yourself, but you're not free to be contagious and get other people infected as well.

    2. Alonzo

      Right, because you are vaccinated means you can't carry covid and aren't contagious...

    3. Todd

      Typical anti-vaxxer misguided argument. Vaccinated people mostly do not end up in the hospital or the ICU if they catch Covid. If a vaccinated person has Covid, is surrounded by mostly vaccinated people and spreads it to them, hospitals and ICUs still won’t be in the precarious situation they are in today. The more people that are vaccinated, the fewer serious hospitalization cases there will be, plain and simple.

    4. Aaron

      So the crux of the argument seems to be needing hospitalization for something that could have been easily prevented. That’s basically the argument, right? There are many self destructive things people do that end up requiring hospitalization. How about drug addicts who habitually OD and who have drug treatment programs available to them? How about smokers with emphysema and COPD who continually come in for respiratory treatment? Or an obese person coming in for their...

      So the crux of the argument seems to be needing hospitalization for something that could have been easily prevented. That’s basically the argument, right? There are many self destructive things people do that end up requiring hospitalization. How about drug addicts who habitually OD and who have drug treatment programs available to them? How about smokers with emphysema and COPD who continually come in for respiratory treatment? Or an obese person coming in for their fourth bypass surgery because they can’t stop eating pizza and ice cream? How about motorcycle riders with head injuries who refuse to wear a helmet? Where’s the outcry for all these patients who are burdening the healthcare system and also coming in for treatment for things that were preventable?

    5. David

      And yet with all those conditions you just mentioned our hospital systems weren't overwhelmed. Unvaccinated COVID patients have posed a unique challenge to our hospital systems that there is not a direct comparison for.

    6. Aaron

      Yes, actually they were always overwhelmed. Pre-covid, go to any emergency room in any major inner city and good luck getting a bed right away. More than likely, you would have had a 1-2 hour wait. The ER was filled with patients with mostly preventable complaints. Of course, it never made the news until covid hit, so you never heard about it.

  17. Scott

    Yep, according to the beloved CDC -
    'About 78% of people who have been hospitalized, needed a ventilator or died from Covid-19 have been overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new study Monday'

    So charge those fat people $300 a month as they are the drivers of this, as well as other health issues. Its facts.

    1. Ben L.

      That's...pretty much the percentage of the general population who are overweight or obese. This statistic does not make the point you think it does.

  18. Ff

    @Alonzo those who smoke or are obese don't get bonus deposits into their HSA, so that's sort of a 'penalty'

    1. Alonzo

      An HSA is an option, not a requirement. I'm not going to have an issue paying my bills if my company doesn't deposit my annual $500 into my HSA in January. Jacking my insurance up by $200 per a month for the foreseeable future, yeah some may have an issue financially. Avg person at Delta makes less than 40k/year.

  19. Alonzo

    What a complete joke. Raise premiums for employees who smoke and are obese too. Don't tell me they don't do damage to the healthcare system because they absolutely do. Delta absolutely has the right to do this, but be sensible and look at the data.

  20. shoeguy

    A great step and a sign that perhaps the entire healthcare insurance industry will move in that direction and hike premiums severely for the unvaccinated. Those that opt to forgo a vaccination for a reason other than a health care consideration should be prepared to forgo most freedoms.

  21. James

    Good it should be 50% higher actually. Just like insurance companies can charge a 50% premium if you are a smoker. It’s a choice. You are free to choose whatever but there are premiums to pay as well

  22. NSS

    Heart disease isn't contagious. Eyes on the prize, people. Let's try to get a handle on the pandemic with the effective tools we have. The vaccines, not bleach or injecting light into your body.

    Cancer patients having to postpone treatment for lack of hospital beds isn't ok.

    Also, why are the anti-vaxxers not ok getting a shot based on 10 years of research but are totally fine with experimental treatments once they're in the ICU?

    Yay rational thought.

  23. Luke

    I've always thought for past few months that health insurers should outright deny claims related to covid illness/hospitalization for the unvaccinated, and especially relevant now that Pfizer has the full FDA approval. Otherwise at the very least makes sense to start charging higher premiums for the unvaccinated for both health and life insurance, just like how it works for smokers.

    Sure if you can have your freedom to not take the vax, you also have...

    I've always thought for past few months that health insurers should outright deny claims related to covid illness/hospitalization for the unvaccinated, and especially relevant now that Pfizer has the full FDA approval. Otherwise at the very least makes sense to start charging higher premiums for the unvaccinated for both health and life insurance, just like how it works for smokers.

    Sure if you can have your freedom to not take the vax, you also have the freedom and liberties to pay higher healthcare costs!

    1. John

      They should also deny claims for anyone with a related smoking disease, since there are warning labels on the packs. They should also deny claims related to obesity, since nutrition labels are on ever food package. Can they also deny claims for anything alcohol related?

      Shoot, my insurance premium would almost $0!

    2. AdamH

      Company surcharges on health plans for smokers have been around for several years now. This is not an entirely new concept.

    3. John

      No, you misunderstand. Deny any claims! I'm tired of paying into a system that funds people making unhealthy living decisions.

    4. Donna

      I heard one major health insurer, unfortunately I can’t recall the name, announced that after November 1st, it will no longer cover Covid related hospitalizations in the unvaccinated.

  24. askmrlee

    No different than a tobacco use surcharge for healthcare premiums - shouldn't be controversial.

    1. Andy

      100% spot on. This is no different.

      Also for talking about obesity, most insurance company's give DISCOUNTS for being in shape and healthy. I know my company and others I have worked for give you discounts if your BMI is under a certain threshold and you submit to blood tests.

  25. Geoff

    Agree with a few other posts about charging fat asses who are too lazy to change their slovenly lifestyles. Get fit or pay.

  26. Adam

    Interesting, additionally they could now consider obesity surcharge as by far the number one driver of insurance premiums is heart disease.

  27. Abey

    Airlines (and all big corps for that matter) try not to make big sudden changes, I was actually surprised that UA went hard and fast on vax, financial incentive here should be very effective in getting the hesitation to change their minds. I would say though that testing should be more frequent perhaps every other day ?

  28. Tim Dunn

    Good for Delta.
    This is precisely the same risk-based health management that many companies have regarding smoking, weight, and heart disease and/or diabetes management.
    People need to make their own health decisions but they need to be accountable for those decisions.

    1. Alonzo

      Excuse me? What major company has risk based health management in place? 75% of the USA is overweight. 75% of those folks who are overweight, are obese. What are you talking about?

    2. Ralph4878

      Obesity is not always a choice, nor is it something that just comes along once in a century. Not to mention that there are social/economic factors at play...have you ever driven through a poor neighborhood in the United States? What's available? Fast food joints, run down supermarkets selling instant food...come on, man. Obesity and COVID are not the same...I suspect there will be waivers in place for folks who need them re: the vaccine, but...

      Obesity is not always a choice, nor is it something that just comes along once in a century. Not to mention that there are social/economic factors at play...have you ever driven through a poor neighborhood in the United States? What's available? Fast food joints, run down supermarkets selling instant food...come on, man. Obesity and COVID are not the same...I suspect there will be waivers in place for folks who need them re: the vaccine, but now that it is FDA-approved, anyone refusing to get it is just being obstinate - the information is out there about how safe it is, and we've had enough time to see what the costs are for not vaccinating. Personal choices have consequences, and ignoring science is a choice.

    3. Alonzo

      Obesity is not always a choice? Cool, explain to me what percentage of being overweight or obese IS a choice. 75% of the country is overweight so I'm going to make the assumption that you are in that category. For the past 16 months, people have been ignoring the top 3 causes of death. I have news for you, it has never been covid and never will be covid.

  29. Amol

    As someone who has to work in the hospital taking care of full COVID units due to unvaccinated people, I think $200/month is too little. But it’s a good start.

    1. Alonzo

      I appreciate what you do, but they should charge you $200/month as you're exposed to covid patients all day and are just as likely if not more, to be a carrier. Vaccinated, sure. But you can carry just like anyone else and are exposed constantly and consistently by people who are verified to actually have covid.

    2. I Wonder...

      @Alonzo - I presume you're just looking to pick a fight or you really are as dumb as you sound. I'm assuming the latter.

    3. AlanD

      I just always assume he is a wanker...

    4. Page

      You don't have to assume. He is Alonzo is 100% latter.

  30. Shawn

    Lib here. Am I the only one who thinks this is for theatre? How about charging a premium for the 300lb lard ass that actually will cost more in healthcare and not the few unvaccinated who might get Covid. And even if they do it’s statiscally unlikely they would end up in the icu. Let’s not forget if they didn’t have an mmr booster is there a premium?

    This isn’t AA flight crew where the avg age is 65. This is delta. It’s lipstick on a pig for show. Nothing more.

    1. Abey

      You are wrong. This is sudden and significant increase in costs where there’s a simple solution to avoid it. Obesity for example is a sliding scale with a long runway of costs that would inhibit personal freedom if you’d start charging for every ailment cost and on broad level would make these companies look like extremely stingy with employees

    2. tipsyinmadras

      Obesity isn't a yes/no individual choice - people can predisposed to being overweight through no fault of their own. Vaccination is a choice - just like choosing to smoke, if you do, it increases healthcare costs and raises your insurance rates increase.

    3. Shawn

      The only predisposition one has to bring fat is there parents stuffing them with hohos and coke as a child and that’s what they grow up liking. It is an urban myth people are “big boned”. People are fat because they consume more calories than they expend. While some peoples basal metabolism is higher, the majority aren’t significantly so. People are fat because they eat like shit. Not because they’re predisposed. My parents are alcoholics....

      The only predisposition one has to bring fat is there parents stuffing them with hohos and coke as a child and that’s what they grow up liking. It is an urban myth people are “big boned”. People are fat because they consume more calories than they expend. While some peoples basal metabolism is higher, the majority aren’t significantly so. People are fat because they eat like shit. Not because they’re predisposed. My parents are alcoholics. Should I just become one and say it’s not my fault here pay for my healthcare? Being fat is a drain on our healthcare and fit people pay the price for it. Just stop with Covid. The pandemic is being a lard ass on insulin.

      Skinny people eat skinny and fat people eat fat.

    4. Shawn

      I don’t think I am but you’re entitled to your opinion. An obese individual over the course of their life will suck more from an insurance company than the avg joe with covid. Sure you could end up in the icu but the likelihood is low.

      I stand by my previous comment. This is all for theatre. Start charging the lard asses who milk society and charge me less for being fit.

      And...

      I don’t think I am but you’re entitled to your opinion. An obese individual over the course of their life will suck more from an insurance company than the avg joe with covid. Sure you could end up in the icu but the likelihood is low.

      I stand by my previous comment. This is all for theatre. Start charging the lard asses who milk society and charge me less for being fit.

      And to the comment or who said being fat isn’t always a choice….uh yeah it is. Fat people eat fat. Full stop. Case closed. Show me a fat person who exercises.

    5. Shawn

      Abet you’re missing my larger point. Do we charge premiums for the anti vaccine moms who won’t vaccinate their children? What’s so special about Covid? The average person getting Covid isn’t in the ICU.

      Look I’m all for being vaccinated. Any of the unvaccinated are just Darwin’s low hanging fruit but it still doesn’t change the fact why should a company charge more for it? Just because it’s the hot virus of the day?...

      Abet you’re missing my larger point. Do we charge premiums for the anti vaccine moms who won’t vaccinate their children? What’s so special about Covid? The average person getting Covid isn’t in the ICU.

      Look I’m all for being vaccinated. Any of the unvaccinated are just Darwin’s low hanging fruit but it still doesn’t change the fact why should a company charge more for it? Just because it’s the hot virus of the day? It’s theatre so they can pump their chest.

      If they really wanted to make a statement, fire their asses if they won’t get the shot. And a 200 dollar premium isn’t gonna so much for a 20k/day icu stay.

      All for theatre. Nothing more.

  31. Dick Bupkiss

    A good first step. Next, 100% vax REQUIREMENT for all employees, and a complete ban on unvaccinated passengers (effective October 1, that's enough time to get it done). It's time to quit screwing around, and stop apologizing for being rational.

    1. Alonzo

      Right, so let's be rational and make everyone required to get a vaccine. Super rational and sensible lmao.

    2. UA-NYC

      Since 90+% of hospitalizations & deaths are from the unvaccinated, taxing our healthcare system, and the South's hospitals in particular are overflowing (no surprise) - why yes, it is super rational & sensible.

Featured Comments Load all 70 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Tim Dunn

Good for Delta. This is precisely the same risk-based health management that many companies have regarding smoking, weight, and heart disease and/or diabetes management. People need to make their own health decisions but they need to be accountable for those decisions.

Amol

As someone who has to work in the hospital taking care of full COVID units due to unvaccinated people, I think $200/month is too little. But it’s a good start.

Shawn

The only predisposition one has to bring fat is there parents stuffing them with hohos and coke as a child and that’s what they grow up liking. It is an urban myth people are “big boned”. People are fat because they consume more calories than they expend. While some peoples basal metabolism is higher, the majority aren’t significantly so. People are fat because they eat like shit. Not because they’re predisposed. My parents are alcoholics. Should I just become one and say it’s not my fault here pay for my healthcare? Being fat is a drain on our healthcare and fit people pay the price for it. Just stop with Covid. The pandemic is being a lard ass on insulin. Skinny people eat skinny and fat people eat fat.

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