Health Insurance

Will Health Insurance Premiums Rise for Unvaccinated Individuals?

Alexis Bryan20 Aug 2021

Experts are considering if insurance companies have the right to raise health insurance premiums for unvaccinated individuals. This is similar to how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows health insurance companies to charge smokers higher premiums than non-smokers. The hope is to incentivize people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but it is unclear if this legislation will be passed. Employers are also looking to implement different types of strategies to encourage workers to get vaccinated. Insurance surcharges, which can amount to hundreds of dollars per year, are currently being considered. 

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Will Health Insurance Premiums Rise?

At this time, there is a very small chance there will be bipartisan support to allow health insurance companies to raise health insurance premiums for those who are unvaccinated. Additionally, there is insufficient evidence base to back an increase in health insurance premiums.

Dr. Matthew Neidell, Ph.D., an economics professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, explains, “My sense is covid cases aren’t expensive enough to justify higher premiums. Health care costs from smoking are quite high, so insurers can make a valid case raising premiums for smokers is cost-effective. The overwhelming majority of covid cases are minor illnesses that don’t require any formal health care, so it would be hard to justify raising premiums.”

Raising Health Insurance Premiums to Incentivize COVID-19 Vaccination

Policymakers and employers alike are searching for ways to modify health insurance premiums to encourage COVID-19 vaccination. Dr. Neidell shares, “One could say they raise premiums to create an incentive to encourage people to vaccinate, but it’s probably not a high enough amount to move the needle, and it’s not clear insurers should be playing that role.”

While it may not be possible for health insurance companies to raise premiums, employers can increase the cost of premiums by up to 30%. Two main options are being considered by employers to increase vaccine uptake:

  1. Increase premiums for those who are not vaccinated
  2. Implement a health insurance surcharge for employees who are not vaccinated

Health Insurance Surcharges

It seems more likely that employers will enact their own policies to encourage vaccination.  From a health care cost perspective, unvaccinated individuals can cost their employers excessive amounts of money if they need to be hospitalized. Therefore, employers are considering charging an extra monthly fee to those who are not vaccinated. 

In 2020, the average cost of an individual employer-sponsored health insurance premium was $7,470 per year. Employees will likely be averse to any additional increase to already high premiums. Getting vaccinated can also save individuals money in the long run by reducing avoidable COVID-19 cases. According to a statement released in May, as long as providing proof of vaccination is voluntary, significant incentives to get vaccinated are allowed.

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Vaccine Mandates

The Food and Drug Association (FDA) does not currently mandate COVID-19 vaccination, but Tyson Foods, United Airlines, CNN, the U.S. military, and other companies have imposed vaccine mandates for their employees. These mandates mainly apply to employees who interact with the public. As long as workers can get exempt from the requirement for legitimate medical or religious reasons, these policies are deemed legal. 

Flu shots have long been required for health care providers, so COVID-19 vaccine mandates in this context are already in place in many hospitals. If the FDA grants full approval to the vaccines, we will probably see many more companies mandating vaccination.

Companies that have Announced Vaccination Plans

Over the past few months, employers have been developing plans to return to the office and how to do so safely. The table below lists companies that have announced their vaccination plans and what it entails.

CompanyVaccination Plan
Amtrak
  • All employees need to be fully vaccinated by 11/1/2021 or submit weekly COVID-19 tests
  • Starting 10/4/2021, all new employees are required to get vaccinated
Anthem
  • Employees must be fully vaccinated to go into the office
Blackrock
  • Only vaccinated employees can return to the office
Cisco
  • Only vaccinated “critical workers” can go into the office
Citigroup
  • Starting 9/13/2021, employees in the NYC, Chicago, Boston, D.C., and Philadelphia offices are expected to return to the office 2 days a week and are required to be vaccinated
Delta Air Lines
  • Effective 5/17/2021, all new hires are required to be vaccinated
  • Employees hired before 5/17/2021 are not required to be vaccinated
DoorDash
  • Employees who want to return to the office must show proof of vaccination
Equinox
  • Members and employees have to provide proof of vaccination to enter its facilities and offices starting in New York City in September 2021
Facebook
  • When their offices open in January, 2022, all employees who return to work must be vaccinated
Ford
  • All employees who partake in international business travel are required to be vaccinated
Goldman Sachs
  • Employees are required to report their vaccination status in order to enter the office
Google
  • Vaccination is required for all employees going into the office
Jefferies
  • Only vaccinated individuals are allowed into its offices and to outside company events
Lyft
  • Corporate employees are required to show proof of vaccination in order to enter offices
Microsoft
  • Requires proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and guests starting in September 2021
Morgan Stanley
  • Only vaccinated employees are allowed in New York-area offices
NBCUniversal
  • Workers returning to the office later this fall are required to be fully vaccinated
Netflix
  • Requires vaccination for casts of all U.S. productions, as well as the individuals who work with them on set
The New York Times
  • Will require proof of vaccination for those who want to go into the office voluntarily
Saks
  • Is asking employees to get the vaccine before returning to the office this fall
Salesforce
  • Only allowing vaccinated employees back to its offices as of May, 2021
  • All employees have the option to work from home until the end of the year
Twitter
  • Requires employees to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before voluntarily returning to the company’s San Francisco and New York offices, both of which reclosed last week
Tyson Foods
  • Requires its U.S. corporate workforce to be vaccinated by 10/1/2021 and all other employees by 11/1/2021
Uber
  • Starting 8/2/2021, requires employees to be fully vaccinated in order to return to the office
Union Square Hospitality Group
  • Requires vaccinations for staff members and guests
United Airlines
  • Requires all U.S.-based employees to get vaccinated by 10/25/2021
ViacomCBS
  • Requires all U.S.-based employees working onsite during its "Yellow Phase" to be fully vaccinated
  • Is still assessing whether this mandate will continue into the "Green Phase," which is when most staff will be back in the office which will be 10/18/2021 at the earliest.
Walgreens
  • Requires workers in its U.S. support offices to be fully vaccinated by 10/30/2021
  • Those who do not adhere to the new rule will have to undergo Covid testing
  • Store associates must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status
The Walt Disney Company
  • Requires all new, salaried and non-union hourly employees to get vaccinated
  • “Employees who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on-site will have 60 days from today to complete their protocols, and any employees still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination prior to their return, with certain limited exceptions”
Walmart
  • Corporate associates, managers and new hires are required to get their shot by 10/4/2021
The Washington Post
  • Employees and new hires must demonstrate proof of vaccination as a condition of their employment starting when they return to the office on 10/18/2021

Importance of Vaccination

As the Delta variant continues to spread, vaccination rates remain low in some areas. In places where there is a low rate of vaccination, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can continue to spread and mutate into new strains.

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COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker by State

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/map-covid-19-vaccination-tracker-across-u-s-n1252085

COVID-19 Health Insurance Premiums for Unvaccinated Individuals Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Some companies are implementing health insurance surcharges for unvaccinated employees, and others are offering health insurance premium discounts for those who do get vaccinated. Below we answer some common questions regarding COVID-19 vaccine policies.

Will my employer require COVID-19 vaccination?

Vaccine mandates are controversial. because employers do not want to lose their employees. Some employers worry that mandating COVID-19 vaccination will not be effective and might force employees to leave the company. Instead, many employers are working to make getting vaccinated easier for their employees by offering paid time off to get vaccinated.

What are COVID-19 vaccine incentives?

Vaccine incentives are monetary incentives for workers to get vaccinated. Companies are willing to pay substantial amounts of money to employees in order to return to the office sooner. Two-thirds of people reported they would get vaccinated if offered a financial incentive.

When will we return to the office?

Due to the current situation of the Delta variant, companies are pushing back their return-to-office dates. Previously, many offices planned to reopen as early as summer 2021, but now we see companies push this date to January 2022. When we can return to the office depends on how quickly we can reach herd immunity through vaccination and if we can prevent the development of new variants.

Bottom Line

COVID-19 vaccination has created a complicated situation for health insurance companies and employers. In the coming weeks, we will almost certainly see an increase in mandates despite the controversy that surrounds the debate. At this time, experts are not predicting health insurance premiums to rise from the side of insurance companies.

While policymakers are figuring out how to encourage vaccination without damaging effects, it is important to understand how our personal choices are affecting those around us. Keep your coworkers, family, and friends safe by getting vaccinated today. If you need help finding an appointment, Mira is here to help.