Delta Air Lines to unvaxxed employees: We're charging you $200 more a month in health insurance premiums, and that's not all

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

An amusing footnote to this morning’s announcement:

Poor Delta. What a horrible brand to share. Although, if it’s a consolation to them, they’re not alone.

Their new policy is being spun by anti-vaxxers as a form of punishment. It isn’t. It’s a matter of asking workers to help defray the exorbitant cost of potential medical care they almost certainly wouldn’t need if they got a free shot. The unvaccinated are choosing to stick their employer with easily avoidable risk at great expense. All the company wants is for them to help shoulder more of the load.

Look at it this way. Delta could tell its employees “get vaccinated or get out,” as United has done by mandating vaccines for all staff. They’re giving the unvaxxed the option to stay on without getting the jab. Provided that they’re willing to share more of the burden from the consequences of their choices.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian notified employees Wednesday that they will face $200 monthly increases on their health insurance premiums starting Nov. 1 if they aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19, citing steep costs to cover employees who are hospitalized with the virus…

The airline, which self insures its employees, stands out in its plans to raise premiums for unvaccinated workers to cover the higher costs of insuring employees who get Covid.

“The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person,” Bastian said in an employee memo. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company. In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.”

They’re the first major U.S. company to hike premiums on the unvaccinated, which is surprising given what an obvious move that is when trying to manage the costs of COVID risk. I wrote last month about how even ObamaCare’s rules let insurers raise premiums on smokers to offset some of the cost of the medical treatments they’ll probably eventually need. And smokers don’t have the option of accessing a widely available miracle drug that’ll avert the need for those treatments altogether in all likelihood.

The unvaccinated don’t care that Delta Air Lines might have to foot an almost wholly avoidable medical bill for 50 grand so Delta’s making them care. Simple as that. Ideally the company wouldn’t need to force people to take personal responsibility for their behavior but we are where we are.

Higher premiums aren’t the only consequence coming for unvaccinated Delta employees:

Beginning Sept. 12, unvaccinated employees will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests so long as case rates remain high.

Starting Sept. 30, “COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection,” Bastian added…

Delta Air Lines is also imposing an indoor mask mandate for unvaccinated employees effective immediately.

In other words, if you’re an unvaccinated Delta employee after September 30 and you get infected, you’ll be asked to use your sick days while you’re out. After all, time missed from work is another cost imposed by the unvaxxed on their employers on top of the cost of medical care. Since the vaccinated clear the virus more quickly and are far more likely to avoid hospitalization, they’re apt to be back on the job sooner than the unvaccinated are. Potentially much sooner depending upon how severe an unvaccinated employee’s case is.

Yesterday I wrote about a new study of L.A. County that showed infected unvaccinated people were 29 times more likely to need hospital care this summer than vaccinated people with breakthrough infections were. More data today from New York supports that baseline conclusion. People who haven’t had their shots stand a much higher chance of landing in the ER than those who’ve had them do. And as the Delta variant has become dominant, the hospitalization gap has widened:

That graph is all anyone needs to see to grasp that Delta’s new policies aren’t punitive. They’re a matter of trying to hold down costs because their unvaccinated workers don’t care enough to do it for them.

Any news of vaccine refuseniks having to bear consequences for their choices brings grumbling in populist media, but Erick Erickson had an interesting response to that this morning. The silent majority isn’t a majority in this case:

It’s not even a matter of not being able to go back to normal. It’s a matter of hospitals being so strained by avoidable COVID cases that people in need of major non-COVID care are having to wait for beds. The unvaccinated are no longer just a risk to themselves, as might have been claimed a few months ago. Post-Delta, they’re a risk to everyone — to the vaccinated (especially the older vaccinated) via the greater likelihood of breakthrough infections and to the general public by not doing what they can to avert overwhelming the hospital system.

And Americans are getting exasperated:

Here’s Delta’s CEO explaining the new policy on CNN today.