Louisiana’s largest healthcare nonprofit says it will charge staff $200-a-month extra for health insurance if their partners don’t have the COVID vaccine.
Ochsner Health sent the letter to its 33,000 employees, saying workers whose spouses or domestic partners named on the company health plan will have the surcharge added if they haven’t had the jab from January 2022.
The letter claims the change is ‘protect our entire Ochsner team, which includes employees, their families and the communities we serve.’
The increase doesn’t apply to children covered by the plan, with only those aged 12 and up currently eligible to receive COVID vaccines. Oscher previously demanded that all its staff get vaccinated by October 29 or face dismissal.
Ochsner president and CEO Warner Thomas claimed in a statement that no-one is being forced to have the vaccine – but that people who don’t wish to pay the surcharge will have to look elsewhere for health insurance.
That would mean staff and their partners would lose one of the main perks of working for a hospital network.
A recent National Law Review analysis found that companies were legally within their rights to impose surcharges on the health insurance plans of unvaccinated workers or partners, or to offer discounts to those who have had the shot.
Ochsner president and CEO Warner Thomas (pictured above) claimed in a statement that this is not a mandate, but due to costs for treating COVID
A Wills Towers Watson poll said that 17 percent of the 931 companies they surveyed are considering a surcharge, with Delta Airlines the most well-known firm to make that move to date.
As of September 1, they found that about 1 percent of companies were already applying surcharges on the health care premiums of unvaccinated workers, and another 1 percent were planning how and when to implement the surcharges.
Delta Airlines was the first large American employer to announce such a scheme. Starting November 1, any employee who remains unvaccinated would also pay $200 extra a month to stay on their insurance plan.
Hospital systems across the country, as well as other major employers like United Airlines and Tyson Foods have said that employees who won’t take the shot will get fired.
‘This is not a mandate,’ Thomas said. ‘The reality is the cost of treating COVID-19, particularly for patients requiring intensive inpatient care, is expensive,’ he added.
Many of those who fall seriously-ill with COVID end up in intensive care wards, and on ventilators. They require round-the-clock care from a team of dedicated nurses, with survivors receiving bills for as much as $3.4 million after recovering.
Thomas cited other circumstances where there are similar surcharges in place, like those for tobacco users. He also said it’s in line with the benefits offered by many health care organizations.
He added that Ochsner spent over $9 million on COVID-19 treatment for employees and others covered by their health plans in the past year.
A Kaiser Foundation estimate said that the average cost of hospitalization for the coronavirus is $20,000.
Spouses and domestic partners can switch insurance plans to avoid the surcharge, although that means they’ll lose one of the key perks of having a close relative work for a hospital system.
Thomas said about 90 percent of Ochsner’s COVID patients since December have been unvaccinated.
Fully vaccinated people accounted for as few as 5% of hospitalizations in 40 states and Washington, D.C., the New York Times said, with the vast majority of recent deaths and hospitalizations among unvaccinated Americans.
Around 70 percent of the healthcare nonprofit’s employees had gotten the vaccine by the time the surcharges were announce.
Other companies have made similar demands.
Ochsner, whose St Anne hospital is pictured, spent over $9 million on COVID-19 treatment for employees and others covered by their health plans in the past year
Firms which have imposed vaccine mandates on employees who face the ax if they ignore it have seen inoculation rates rocket, suggesting the edicts do motivate workers to have the shot.
Fewer than half of Louisiana’s eligible population is fully inoculated, according to the New York Times, well below a nationwide average of about 56 percent.
As of October 6, Louisiana ranks third in the nation for COVID deaths per million people, even though it is the 25th most populous US state.
It has suffered 3,026 deaths per million people in the state.
They’re also 11th in the US for cases per million people, with 160,182 cases per one million people, meaning close to one fifth of the state’s population has had COVID.
Overall, 744,651 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Louisiana, while 14,068 have been confirmed dead from the virus.
The state health department claims that 86 percent of cases, 82 percent of hospitalizations and 81 percent of deaths between September 16 and September 22 were of people unvaccinated.