Employees of Louisiana's largest health system who have a spouse covered on their medical insurance will be charged an extra $200 a month if the spouse has not received the COVID-19 inoculation, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune is reporting.
The ''spousal COVID vaccine fee'' will begin in 2022 and comes as Ochsner Health System has set an Oct. 29 deadline for employees to become vaccinated or lose their jobs, NOLA.com reported.
The surcharge is only for unvaccinated spouses or domestic partners, not children or other dependents.
"The reality is the cost of treating COVID-19, particularly for patients requiring intensive inpatient care, is expensive, and we spent more than $9 million on COVID care for those who are covered on our health plans over the last year," Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas said in a statement emailed to NOLA.com.
Charles Stoecker, a Tulane University professor who studies the economics of healthcare and vaccination, compared the vaccination surcharge to one imposed for smoking.
"If you're asking everybody else to assume the risk for your unvaccinated stay in the ICU, it does make more sense that you should have to kick in more into the insurance pool."
NOLA.com said it was becoming more common for employers to charge unvaccinated individuals covered under their health insurance plans added fees.
Starting Nov. 1, Delta Air Lines will raise health insurance premiums by $200 per month for unvaccinated employees.
Ochsner is self-insured and said that 90% of the costs incurred for COVID-19 hospitalizations at its facilities are for unvaccinated patients.
Thomas said the surcharge was not equivalent to a requirement.
"This is not a mandate as non-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health offerings," Thomas said.
Ochsner employees and their spouses may apply for medical or religious exemptions. About 300 of the company's 33,000 employees have submitted requests for the exemption.
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