Louisiana’s Ochsner Health, the largest hospital system in the state, is imposing a fee on unvaccinated spouses of employees, requiring them to pay an health insurance fee of $100 per pay period if they remain unvaccinated.
Like many healthcare systems, Ochsner Health announced a vaccine mandate in August, requiring workers to get the jab or face termination. Employees are expected to be fully vaccinated by October 29. Those who do not will be suspended and face losing their job if they refuse. Exceptions are limited to those with medical issues or religious reasons.
“In addition to employees, all vendors, medical and allied health students, contract employees, PRN, agency nurses and volunteers will also be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination before rounding or working at an Ochsner Health campus,” a press release of the announcement reads.
“This is absolutely a critical situation and one that’s frankly not sustainable,” Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said at the time.
“The way out of this is to have folks continue to get vaccinated, and that’s one of the reasons that you see that we are now mandating vaccines across our system,” he added.
Louisiana health system to charge employees with unvaccinated spouses a monthly premium of $200. https://t.co/iVW1Xixa1q
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 1, 2021
But now, it appears the healthcare system is taking the mandate a step further, essentially fining employees who have spouses who are unvaccinated by deducting $100 per pay period as part of the “Spousal COVID Vaccine Fee,” which it clarifies is “in addition to your normal medical premiums.”
This policy will begin in 2022.
“Ochsner is implementing a new Spousal COVID Vaccine Fee as part of its 2022 medical plan premiums. This means, if a spouse/domestic partner is covered by one of our medical plans in 2022 and unvaccinated against COVID-19, a $100 per-pay-period fee will apply,” a letter sent to employees reads.
If an employee is paid bi-weekly, that could result in a deduction of $2,400 per year from the “Spousal COVID Vaccine Fee” alone.
Notably, the fee only applies to spouses right now– not dependents.
“Similar to our vaccine requirement, this spousal COVID vaccine fee aims to protect our entire Ochsner team, which includes employees, their families and the communities we serve,” it continues, explaining it will have a verification process to upload documentation to “confirm” if one’s spouse is vaccinated.
“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,” Thomas said, according to NOLA.
Similarly, in August, Delta Air Lines announced it would impose a $200 surcharge per month on unvaccinated employees remaining on the company’s health plan. That policy begins in November.