Unvaccinated? If You Work for Delta, It Will Cost You

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NOTD - $200

The Balance

That's how much more Delta Air Lines employees who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will pay for health insurance each month to offset rising health care costs.

Unvaccinated workers enrolled in Delta’s account-based health care plan will have to pay the monthly surcharge starting on Nov. 1, the airline announced Wednesday.

Delta pays an average of $50,000 for each COVID-related hospital stay, the company said in a statement, adding that none of its employees hospitalized with the virus in recent weeks had been fully vaccinated. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 were 4.9 times more likely to be infected with the virus and 29.2 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people.

“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees Wednesday.

Delta has required all new hires to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but it has resisted a broader mandate in place at other airlines, like United and Frontier, that requires all employees to get the vaccine by this fall.  

Three-quarters of Delta’s workforce have received a vaccine so far, and the airline said it has offered incentives—including financial ones like cash prizes—to convince more people to get the vaccine. But a spokesperson for the airline said that Delta does not want to enact a policy, like a vaccine mandate, that would cost employees their jobs if they refused. 

So, instead, the airline is trying penalties. In addition to increasing the price tag for health insurance for the unvaccinated, the airline will withhold paid sick leave for unvaccinated employees who miss work due to COVID-19. Starting Sept. 30, Delta said, it will offer COVID pay protection only to fully vaccinated people experiencing a breakthrough infection, as required by law.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Rob at ranthes@thebalance.com.