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Delta Air Lines jacks up health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees

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Beginning Nov. 1, unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees will be charged $200 more a month for health insurance premiums as part of a company policy to curb costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the details?

Delta CEO Ed Bastian made the announcement Wednesday in an employee memo in which he called the surcharge "necessary" in light of the "financial risk" that unvaccinated employees create for the company.

"The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person," Bastian noted before arguing, "This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company."

"In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated," Bastian claimed.

In addition to the monthly health insurance surcharges, unvaccinated employees will also be required to wear masks in all indoor Delta settings "until community case rates stabilize" and will be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing.

Furthermore, starting in October, should an unvaccinated employee contract the virus, they will be forced to remain out of the workplace without COVID protection pay.

"Effective Sept. 30, in compliance with state and local laws, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection," the CEO noted.

What else?

The changes are a part of what the executive called a "robust" response to the recent spread of the not-so-conveniently named coronavirus Delta variant. While the company has yet to institute a vaccine mandate for employees, this latest step is clearly an attempt to pressure employees to receive the shot.

Citing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's granting of full approval to the Pfizer vaccine this week, Bastian said, "The time for you to get vaccinated is now."

"We can be confident that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective, and has undergone the same rigorous review for other approved medications to treat cancer and heart disease, as well as other vaccines," he argued. "If you aren't fully vaccinated, I strongly urge you to discuss the issue with your personal physician or health provider."

In May, Delta announced it would require that all new hires be vaccinated against the coronavirus, with some exemptions.

That same month one of Delta's competitors, United Airlines, announced that all 67,000 of its U.S.-based employees had to become fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

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