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YF POLL: 60% say it is fair for companies to add health plan surcharge for unvaccinated workers

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Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani talks companies mulling penalties for unvaccinated workers following Delta's decision to add a $200 surcharge on health plans for unvaccinated workers.

Video Transcript


ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to "Yahoo Finance Live." It's been a couple days here since we've seen Delta Airlines become one of the first companies to impose a penalty on unvaccinated employees, adding $200 a month to health care costs for employees who opt not to get vaccinated. Part of a big push among public and private companies here to make good on the call that we heard from President Biden for companies to play a larger role in making sure employees get vaccinated.

And for more on that, we'll bring on Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani here with me. As we dig through our poll that we asked everybody out there, to try and get a sense here of what they think, whether or not that's fair, the question that we posed here was, is it fair for companies to charge more for health care coverage if an employee is unvaccinated? And 60% of you said that it is fair. Only about 40% said it's not.

And Anjalee, I mean, we were talking about this pretty much all week, about what that looked like. You know, normally, we see mandates or incentives. But this time, a penalty. And I guess I went along with it.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Yeah. It seems like if you think largely about what the purpose is behind that, everyone who is in favor of vaccination and in favor of the idea of agreeing with public health guidelines, that we do need a certain percentage of people to be vaccinated, and everyone needs to sort of do their part, it sort of gives you an insight into that difference of a societal view versus this individualistic view, which is what the entire public health community is talking about, especially when it comes to the US.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah. And we were having a discussion yesterday, too, with the CEO of one of the big purchaser groups here when it comes to health care plans for corporations, Elizabeth Mitchell. And she was kind of laying out why it becomes important for your neighbors, your coworkers, because their costs are your costs on a health care plan. And she laid out exactly how costly it gets for some of these COVID patients in the hospital. And we know hospitalizations are far better for those who get vaccinated. Here's what she told us when it comes to costs on that front.

ELIZABETH MITCHELL: When you look at the costs that employers are absorbing from hospitals and hospitalizations for folks who aren't vaccinated, this is a drop in the bucket. The average hospitalization for COVID is over $50,000. In June and July alone, companies absorbed over $2 billion of costs. And they pay those bills. These companies are self-insured and they are paying for them. But that comes out of wages. It comes out of job growth. It comes out of families.

ZACK GUZMAN: Anjalee, perhaps unsurprisingly here, a lot of the comments on the Twitter poll had to do with smoking and exercise incentives, too, which we've seen companies issue to try and make sure their employees are healthy. And it seems kind of similar to that.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: It does. It's similar, but you know, pretty much exactly the opposite. And if you talk about it in that perspective, whereas all of these other programs sort of reward those who do follow, and not necessarily penalize, but just keep it at baseline-- you get a credit, essentially, if you're participating in any of these wellness programs. So that's a reward process.

This is more of a penalization. And so that, I think, is a different angle to it. But it largely plays into the key reason why companies care about this, is because of health care costs. Largely speaking, the cost is more or less the issue. And I even had a doctor respond to this tweet, kind of explaining, it's about risk pools and paying into those risk pools. That's where premiums go.

And so it ends up being a reverse of penalization if I, as a healthy person, doing my part, getting a vaccine, then go out and have to pay a premium to someone else's health care cost because they are, in a healthy person's view-- or sorry, in a vaccinated person's view-- being negligent to their response to society, and not getting vaccinated, and then increasing costs for their employer by ending up in the hospital or ending up getting sick and all of the things that go with it. So it's really about that risk management perspective that this is coming from.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, risk management now quickly turning into a cost mitigation effort here on the health care front for all these companies. And you're seeing some very interesting tactics. And as she predicted here in our discussion, we're going to see more companies maybe follow suit with Delta in adding penalties on that side. But 60-40 the split in this week's social poll. Anjalee Khemlani, appreciate you hopping on here to join me on that.