A Louisiana-based hospital system is mandating COVID-19 vaccination for the spouses of employees on the company benefits plan and will add a vaccine fee for workers as long their partner remains unvaccinated.
Ochsner Health, the largest hospital system in the state, in August mandated that all of its employees get vaccinated or lose their jobs. Now, the company sent a notice to employees informing them that a health insurance surcharge of $100 per pay period will be inflicted on any employee with an unvaccinated domestic partner or spouse who is covered under the company health insurance plan, a letter sent to employees stated.
"Similar to our employee vaccination requirement, this spousal COVID vaccine fee aims to protect our entire Ochsner team, which includes employees, their families and the communities we serve," the letter, which circulated on social media this week, stated.
"This is not a mandate as non-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests," Ochsner Health told local news station KATC-TV.
The company said the new policy will affect employees' 2022 health benefits and is similar to a company policy for tobacco users.
"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.
"We know that COVID-19 vaccination dramatically reduces transmission, severity of symptoms, hospitalizations, and death. Approximately 90% of those hospitalized with COVID in our facilities have been unvaccinated since vaccines were approved in December 2020," he said.
"Widespread vaccination is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and we hope this change will encourage even more community members to get vaccinated. We encourage employees with questions about employee benefits to send questions directly to Human Resources."
Numerous companies in the United States have implemented requirements for employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep their jobs. President Joe Biden signed a controversial executive order mandating that all businesses with more than 100 employees implement a vaccine mandate or require their workers to get tested for the virus regularly.
Delta Air Lines was the first major U.S. company to increase the health insurance premiums of unvaccinated employees. In August, the airline announced it would charge employees an extra $200 per month on the company health insurance plan unless they got vaccinated.