Unvaccinated spouses will cost Ochnser employees more for health coverage

Insurance could increase for some Ochsner employees who wish to keep their unvaccinated spouses on their insurance

NEW ORLEANS – Several employers are forcing workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the state’s largest health system is going even further to try to encourage community vaccination.

Ochsner is pressuring not only employees to get vaccinated, but also their loved ones.

New COVID vaccine fees for spouses were recently announced to employees. Ochsner says that starting in 2022, any unvaccinated spouse or household partner on the company’s insurance policy will have to pay an additional $ 100 per pay period. This could work out to about $ 2,400 per year.

Our request for an interview with Ochsner was met with a statement from President and CEO Warner Thomas.

“Each year, Ochsner Health evaluates health insurance and other benefits based on feedback from our employees and changes that impact benefits, services and costs. Our competitive benefit plans are one of the many offerings that make Ochsner a top employer in the Southern Gulf.

One of the changes to the health care benefit offering coming to 2022 is a cost adjustment for adult dependents (spouses and domestic partners) who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. This tariff is similar to what has been put in place for tobacco users and is in line with the benefits offered by many healthcare organizations and companies. This is not a mandate, as self-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health’s offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests.

As a self-insured organization, we work hard every year to keep our health insurance premiums low for our employees and their families. The reality is that the cost of treating COVID-19, especially for patients requiring intensive hospital care, is expensive, and we have spent over $ 9 million on COVID care for those covered by our health plans. over the past year. We know that COVID-19 vaccination dramatically reduces transmission, symptom severity, hospitalizations and deaths. About 90% of people hospitalized for COVID in our facilities have not been vaccinated since the vaccines were approved in December 2020.

Widespread vaccination is essential to stop the spread of COVID-19, and we hope this change will encourage even more community members to get vaccinated. We encourage employees who have questions about benefits to send their questions directly to the Ochsner HR Solutions Center.

There are mixed opinions about the fees, with some even wondering if something like this is allowed. Tulane associate professor and health economist Charles Stoecker says so.

“Ochsner is not a health insurance company. Ochsner is an employer and employers have broad enough permissions to charge different fees depending on what people do to maintain their health,” he said. .

He says the fees add up each year, however, compared to a bill of around $ 50,000 for dealing with COVID, Stoecker says Ochsner is perfectly entitled to add the extra cost.

“The company can impose these many requirements as long as it is necessary for the operation of the company,” he said.

The fees will go into effect in 2022. Medical and religious exemptions are allowed, however, Ochsner says he hopes the change will encourage more community members to protect themselves.

About John Tuttle

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