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The cost of being unvaccinated in the U.S.

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Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman breaks down the costs of hospitalizations among the unvaccinated, as Delta Air Lines requires unvaccinated employees to pay an extra $200 per month for company-provided health insurance.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The average cost of a COVID hospitalization is $20,000. And our senior columnist Rick Newman says people should pay-- not their companies, not the government. Hey, Rick, I can already hear the angry tweets coming your way. I know that yesterday, Delta Airlines sort of took a stand and became the first large company to say, if you're on our company's health insurance, you're going to have to pay a monthly surcharge if you haven't been vaccinated. Tell us more about that and do you think other companies are going to follow suit?

RICK NEWMAN: Right. Delta said if you work here and you choose not to get vaccinated, you're going to have to pay an extra $200 per month for your health insurance if you get health insurance. And the reason for that is it's expensive to get COVID, especially if you are hospitalized. So data that the Kaiser Family Foundation-- as you pointed out, they found that the typical cost of a hospitalization for COVID is around $20,000.

And I think the important thing to point out here is at this point with vaccines widely available, virtually everybody who's going to the hospital and everybody who is dying from COVID are unvaccinated. So these are people who for the most part have the opportunity to get the vaccine, they're not getting it. So they are racking up this cost based on a personal choice, and this leads to all kinds of thorny questions.

So there is a question about whether Delta can legally do that-- whether they can say this one group of employees has to pay more for insurance, because some people may remember the Affordable Care Act prohibits charging people more for so-called pre-existing conditions. So is it a pre-existing condition if you are somebody who chooses not to get vaccinated, or is it more akin to smoking?

And the ACA does allow higher premiums for people who smoke, which is a behavioral choice. So we're about to get into some sticky territory here, and it's going to get interesting.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, I mean, Delta, when I dove into what it was they were asking of their employees, they're putting this under what they call their wellness program, which is where that smoking fits in-- basically saying that if you're unvaxed, you're more of a risk to the insurance company and to Delta itself.

Also, doesn't Delta pay into its own insurance or offer its insurance in a different way than some of the other airlines do? I know United, for instance, is mandating that all of its employees get vaccinated, so is Hawaiian Airlines. But Delta didn't come out and mandate the vaccine, but they are doing this with a surcharge for those unvaxed-- I guess, obviously, as an incentive to get people vaccinated.

RICK NEWMAN: Well, it's a disincentive. I mean, the way-- this is where Delta may have a problem, because those wellness problems, typically you get a discount. You get something back or the company might pay for your gym membership, for example. They don't typically penalize you, which is what Delta is doing.

It's really unclear why Delta is not doing what most other companies are doing, which is simply requiring employees to get vaccinated. And courts have said, yes, it's clear that companies have the right to do that. So that's the clear path, and we're definitely seeing more companies do that now that the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine.

Delta has not explained itself on this one. It's worth pointing out, I guess, that Delta is based in Georgia. Georgia is a Southern state where vaccine mandates are politically unpopular. And Delta as a company based there has clashed with local Republican officials before over other matters. So they could be trying to avoid a political controversy there. But it sounds to me like they're getting a political controversy, because that's what we're talking about right now.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah. And we'll have to see when those and how quickly those lawsuits pour in that start to challenge that policy at Delta-- Still so much yet unknown. All right, Rick Newman, thanks for breaking that all down for us.