LAFAYETTE, La (KLFY) Ochsner Health System puts pressure not only on employees to get vaccinated, but also on their loved ones.
New COVID vaccine fees for spouses were recently announced to employees.
Ochsner says that starting in 2022, any unvaccinated adult dependent on the company’s insurance policy will have to pay an additional $ 200 per month.
Ochsner’s motivations boil down to reducing costs and increasing the well-being of their insurance network. The system admits spending millions on COVID care for people covered by their health plans over the past year.
To answer questions on whether private insurers charge to stay unvaccinated, we asked Ochsner for comment and received a statement from President and CEO Warner Thomas. It is said,
âEach year, Ochsner Health evaluates health insurance and other benefits based on feedback from our employees and changes that impact benefits, services and costs. Our competitive benefit plans are one of the many offerings that make Ochsner a top employer in the Southern Gulf.
One of the changes to the health care benefit offering coming to 2022 is a cost adjustment for adult dependents (spouses and domestic partners) who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. This tariff is similar to what has been put in place for tobacco users and is in line with the benefits offered by many healthcare organizations and companies. This is not a mandate, as self-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health’s offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests.
As a self-insured organization, we work hard every year to keep our health insurance premiums low for our employees and their families. The reality is that the cost of treating COVID-19, especially for patients requiring intensive hospital care, is expensive, and we have spent over $ 9 million on COVID care for those covered by our health plans. over the past year. We know that COVID-19 vaccination dramatically reduces transmission, symptom severity, hospitalizations and deaths. About 90% of people hospitalized for COVID in our facilities have not been vaccinated since the vaccines were approved in December 2020.
Widespread vaccination is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19, and we hope this change will encourage even more community members to get vaccinated. We encourage employees who have questions about benefits to direct their questions to Human Resources.
Warner Thomas, President and CEO, Ochsner Health
Under the new “Spousal Covid Vaccine Fee,” insureds with an unvaccinated adult dependent can expect to spend an additional $ 2,400 per year. The fees are met with mixed opinions. Some even wonder if something like this is allowed. Tulane associate professor and health economist Charles Stoecker says yes.
“Some employer plans have weight loss or smoking cessation goals, so just adding a deterrent to not getting the COVID vaccine is consistent with all of those other programs these employers have. can and already do, âStoecker said.
He explained that self-insured companies can impose fairly broad requirements as long as they are necessary for the operation of the business. Given that 90% of people hospitalized for COVID at Ochsner facilities have not been vaccinated since the vaccines were approved, they likely fall within these lines.
âIf everyone were vaccinated, health insurance would be a lot cheaper because there would be fewer people racking up that $ 50,000 and more hospital bills,â Stoecker said. “So what this plan does is it transfers some of those costs to the people who make some of the decisions that incur those costs.”
With little support for a national vaccine mandate, Stoecker predicts the approach will likely expand to other companies.
“We will see those organizations, like employers, who want to keep their employees healthy and not have to pay health insurance costs for their employees implement these incentive programs to encourage employees to get vaccinated. “, concluded Stoecker.
The fees will go into effect again in 2022. Spouses can apply for health and religious exemptions or purchase health insurance elsewhere.