Houston - Delta Air Lines announced it will charge unvaccinated employees an additional $200 a month for health insurance coverage, and won't give them paid sick leave for contracting COVID-19.
More employers and insurance companies are expected to follow suit.
FAIR Health, a non-profit that reports on healthcare costs, says the average COVID hospital STAY IS $38,000. Delta Airline's CEO says the company has paid an average of $50,000 for employees' COVID hospitalizations.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian says in a memo to employees the extra fee will begin in November. He says it's to encourage more employees to get vaccinated and help cover hospital costs for employees who catch COVID.
FOX 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico says it is within a company's rights to do so.
"If your actions are causing the company to spend more than the benefit, they can raise the cost to you because you did that, in most circumstances," Tritico explained.
Exceptions, he says, are if employees have a medical or religious reason not to be vaccinated, or a union contract prohibits it.
Starting September 30, Delta Airlines also says unvaccinated workers will not get paid sick leave for COVID.
"When someone gets COVID and goes into the hospital for a prolonged period of time, then you have this group of people that remain unable to come back to work," said Tritico.
Some health insurers are also expected to start charging higher premiums for unvaccinated people, much like charging more for people who smoke.
"There's nothing to stop a healh insurance company from saying if you're not going to get vaccinated, we now know how much it's going to cost to go to the hospital," Tritico added.
Likewise, insurers and employers can also reduce premiums for vaccinated employees as an incentive to encourage others to get the shots, just as they can in wellness programs for losing weight.
Missouri State University cuts health insurance premiums $20 a month for vaccinated employees.
Tritico says offering incentives are easier than mandating vaccines.
"It's probably easier than going through a discrimination lawsuit for firing people," he said.
A side note: a survey by AffordableHealthInsurance.com found one in four couples that got married during the pandemic did it for the health insurance.