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Delta will charge unvaccinated employees more for health insurance

Aug 25, 2021, 8:57 AM
FILE -- A Delta plane departs from a hangar at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lak...
FILE -- A Delta plane departs from a hangar at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 11, 2021. Laura Seitz, Deseret News

    (CNN) — Delta Air Lines is putting a new deadline on unvaccinated employees that will require them to take weekly Covid tests and, depending on their insurance, pay a $200 per month surcharge.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian made the announcement in a company-wide memo, which the company shared with CNN. The airline says many of its employees are already vaccinated, but it has room for improvement.

“While we can be proud of our 75% vaccination rate, the aggressiveness of the variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100% as possible,” said Bastian.

Delta says starting September 12, any US employee who is not fully vaccinated will be required to take a weekly coronavirus test “while community case rates are high.” The airline says those with a positive result will need to isolate and remain out of the workplace.

Beginning November 1, all unvaccinated Delta employees “enrolled in Delta’s account-based health care plan will be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge.”

“The average hospital stay for Covid-19 has cost Delta $40,000 per person,” said the airline. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”

“This is not just costing lives, this is costing us financial resources as well,” Bastain said on CNN Wednesday.

The airline is also requiring unvaccinated employees to wear masks in “all indoor Delta settings.” A federal mask mandate for air travel, both passengers and staff, remains in place through at least January 18, 2022.

Delta has stopped short of the vaccine mandate that rival United Airlines imposed on its US employees. The nation’s other two major airlines, American and Southwest, have also stopped short of a mandate.

But a number of other household-name companies have begun implementing mandates in response to the surge of Delta variant covid cases, including major tech companies such as Google and Facebook, and Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. But many other employers are concerned about losing employees if they impose a mandate. Among unvaccinated workers asked what they would do if their employer instituted a mandate, 50% said they’d leave their job, according to a June survey by health policy think tank KFF.

“Every company has to make its own decision [on mandates] for its culture, its people, what works according to its values,” Bastian told CNN. “I think these added voluntary steps, short of mandating a vaccine, will get us as close to 100% as we can.”

— CNN Business’ Chris Isidore contributed to this report

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Delta will charge unvaccinated employees more for health insurance