Delta airlines says employees who contract coronavirus and require hospitalization are overwhelmingly those who are not vaccinated.
They also say it’s costing their health plans on average $40,000 every time they end up in a hospital bed.
The company became the first large corporation to announce employees choosing to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine would pay higher health insurance premiums to the tune of $200 more per month.
“When this all started out, when the pandemic began, we had gift cards, we had additional PTO, we had carrots that employers were offering workers to get vaccinated, it’s transitioning to sticks now,” said John Balitis, a labor attorney with Jennings, Strouss and Salmon.
Balitis says the transition from incentives to consequences allows employers to avoid mandating the vaccine while also achieving their overall goal of getting employees to take it. At this point, nearly all medical experts agree, people who get the vaccine are far less likely to end up needing extensive hospital care.
“So what we see them doing is making the consequences so severe that they pretty much compel the worker to make the decision,” said Balitis.
The majority of companies capable of doing this employ huge numbers of workers and are categorized as self-insured. Giving them the legal power to manipulate premiums for things like smoking and even obesity.
“Ultimately if you want to change the behavior pattern of Americans in general, you hit them in the wallet,” said Lynn Marble, owner of Phoenix Health and Life Insurance. “So when people come down to, 'hey it’s either my rent money or I’ll go get the shot and hope that I’m OK,' then I think a lot of people will take the path of least resistance, but there are going to be people out there who fight this tooth and nail.”
However, that legal battle could be difficult to win especially on the heels of State Attorney General Mark Brnovich who issued an opinion saying private businesses can indeed mandate the vaccine.
That is as long as there are exceptions made for those with certain religious beliefs or works with medical conditions preventing them from being vaccinated. However, others may push back on the feeling of being punished for choosing not to get the novel vaccine developed in record time.
“It borders on discriminatory which is the issue that everybody’s got, is that they’re forcing you to do something or put something in your body you may or may not agree with,” said Marble.
Either way, both of these men agree, most likely other large businesses will follow Delta's lead especially now that the vaccine has received full FDA approval. Despite some calling it unfair, the number of Delta employees getting their first dose more than quadrupled following the warning. The real question is, when will it be challenged and how will it all play out?