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Delta Air Lines to charge $200 monthly to workers who refuse COVID-19 vaccines

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/25/2021 Nathan Bomey, USA TODAY
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Delta Air Lines plans to charge workers who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination an extra $200 per month for their health care insurance.

The announcement comes two days after the Food and Drug Administration gave final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which had previously been authorized for emergency use.

It also comes as employers are trying to increase the rate of COVID-19 vaccination among their workers. Some, like the state of California, Tyson Foods, CNN and United Airlines, are mandating vaccination.

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Others are expected to impose insurance surcharges on unvaccinated workers, seeking to cover the increased costs of health care stemming from hospital bills those workers incur when they become infected. USA TODAY reported two weeks ago that major employers were considering such a move amid the rise of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. 

Won't get a COVID-19 vaccine?: Some bosses may charge you more for health insurance on every paycheck

Refusing vaccinatiton could prove costly: You might be hit with expensive medical bills, employer mandates

“It’s something we’ve just started getting questions about in the last couple of weeks,” said Wade Symons, leader of the regulatory resources group at Mercer, an employee benefits consultancy, in an interview earlier this month. “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.”

Delta appears to be the first major employer to publicly move forward with a surcharge.

The $200-per-month surcharge will be applied beginning Nov. 1 to unvaccinated workers on Delta's insurance plan.

The average Delta employee hospitalized for COVID-19 has cost the company $50,000, CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees released by the airline.

"This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company," he wrote.

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He said 75% of Delta employees have gotten vaccinated so far.

Bastian also said Delta is immediately reimposing its indoor mask mandate for all unvaccinated workers. And the company will begin conducting weekly COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated workers beginning Sept. 12.

Insurance surcharges could turn out to be more effective than mandates, said Denise Rousseau, professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College.

“People are loss-sensitive,” Rousseau said in a recent interview. “Losses are more painful than gains are good. If the incentives are experienced as a loss, they’ll act to correct that loss.”

You can follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Delta Air Lines to charge $200 monthly to workers who refuse COVID-19 vaccines

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