Delta raises health insurance premiums for unvaccinated

The airline said it would charge unvaccinated employees an additional fee to cover the cost of COVID-19 care. As of Monday, 75% of employees were vaccinated.



August 27, 2021 - 2:17 PM

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday it will impose a $200 monthly surcharge in its health plan to employees who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this week, the Atlanta-based airline is now taking a more hard-line approach to vaccinations among its employees.

It’s the latest corporation to impose stricter COVID-19 personnel policies given the legal protections offered by the FDA’s full approval of a vaccine.

Chief executive Ed Bastian announced the insurance surcharge along with a number of other policy changes for the unvaccinated in an employee memo Wednesday.

“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person,” Bastian wrote. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”

A few hours after sending the memo, Delta updated the figure, saying the hospital stays  actually cost the company $50,000 per person.

Since the rise of the more contagious variant, all Delta Air Lines employees who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated. The surcharge, which begins in November, equates to a $2,400 cut in annual pay.

Delta, the dominant carrier out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, will require all workers who are not fully vaccinated to take weekly COVID-19 tests. That will begin Sept. 12 and continue as long as community case rates remain high, the airline said.

Unvaccinated employees will immediately be required to mask-up at indoor Delta facilities until case rates drop to a lower level.

And, beginning Sept. 30, COVID-19 pay protection will only apply to fully vaccinated employees who are subjects of a breakthrough infection — something Delta says will be done in compliance with state and local laws. Many companies, including Delta, early in the pandemic created a special paid time off program for employees to dip into if forced to miss work because of the virus.

“With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now,” Bastian wrote.

As of Monday, 75% of the the Delta workforce was fully vaccinated.

Beyond the public health factor, airlines are financially dependent on the public getting vaccinated. Following a surge in spring and summer travel created by lower COVID-19 case rates, bookings slowed and cancellations increased as the virus took a turn for the worse in August.

Two weeks ago, Southwest Airlines lowered its financial guidance to investors for late summer and early fall. “The recent negative effects of the pandemic on August and September revenue trends will make it difficult for the company to be profitable in third quarter 2021,” Southwest wrote in a securities filing on Aug. 11.