- A key Louisiana health system is adding an insurance surcharge for staff with unvaccinated spouses.
- Ochsner employees will have to pay an extra $200 a month if they want their spouses to stay covered.
- Its CEO said 82% of the system's staff are fully vaccinated.
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Employees at Louisiana's largest health system will have to pay $200 a month to keep their unvaccinated spouses insured under the company's benefits system.
Ochsner Health said in a letter to staff that the "spousal COVID vaccine fee" would begin in 2022, per New Orleans publication NOLA and photos shared on social media. It said that it wouldn't apply to other unvaccinated dependents.
CEO Warner Thomas told the publication that Ochsner had decided to introduce the surcharge after analyzing its benefits plan.
"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.
He told NOLA that this wasn't a vaccine mandate for spouses and partners, and that they could choose to get health insurance from another provider. Unvaccinated spouses and partners could be exempted from the surcharges if they have medical or religious exemptions, he said.
Delta Airlines has also introduced a $200 monthly insurance surcharge for unvaccinated staff. A fifth of its unvaccinated workforce got the shot within two weeks of the company announcing the policy.
Ochsner announced in August that all of its 33,000 employees would have to be vaccinated by October 29. At the time, 69% of Ochsner staff were vaccinated. It didn't say whether this statistic was based on employees who were fully vaccinated or who had had at least one dose of a vaccine.
Thomas told NOLA that as of late September, 82% of staff were fully vaccinated, rising to 98% among physicians and hospital leaders.
Around 300 members of staff have applied for medical or religious exemptions, Warner added.
Houston Methodist Hospital, which mandated the shot for its staff, said in June that 153 workers quit or were fired over the policy. Some state and healthcare officials say that vaccine mandates are exacerbating staffing shortages in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.