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Red flags when LA’s largest healthcare system announces employees must pay up for unvaxxed spouses

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Louisiana’s largest healthcare system is not only mandating that their employees get the COVID jab or be fired by Oct. 29, they are also charging $200 a month more for unvaccinated spouses or domestic partners if they want to stay insured.

Ochsner Health has sent a letter to their employees notifying them of the increase in insurance premiums for their unvaccinated significant others according to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. They are calling it the “spousal COVID vaccine fee” and it will be implemented in 2022. Ochsner could deduct up to $2,400 a year from an employee’s income as an added fee for their loved ones not getting the jab. The letter states that the rule only applies to spouses and domestic partners, not other dependents.

CEO Warner Thomas justified the move by claiming that the decision was arrived at after an evaluation of plan benefits, services, and costs.

“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 claimed in an emailed statement.

Thomas further claimed that it was part of an effort to keep health premiums low for employees. He asserts that unvaccinated patients comprise 90 percent of COVID hospitalizations for Ochsner.

Charles Stoecker, a Tulane University professor who studies the economics of healthcare and vaccination, applauded the move and remarked that the premium for unvaccinated spouses will shift costs to those who choose not to get inoculated.

“Now those people have some incentives to consider the cost of the care that they’re asking other people to pay for,” proclaimed Stoecker. “If you’re asking everybody else to assume the risk for your unvaccinated stay in the ICU, it does make more sense that you should have to kick in more into the insurance pool.”

He compared the hiked fee to similarly increased premiums for those who smoke.

Thomas further claimed it was part of an effort to keep health premiums low for employees.

(Video Credit: WDSU News)

Ochsner joined a number of hospitals across the nation in August that have started requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID.

Forty-eight employees sued Ochsner Lafayette General over being forced to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. A judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System was the first big hospital system in Louisiana to enforce an employee vaccine mandate. Since then, LCMC Health, which operates six hospitals in New Orleans, has also set a vaccination deadline of December 30 for their employees.

Hospitals are being forced into the move by the federal government. Medicare and Medicaid Services have announced that any healthcare facility receiving federal funds would also need to comply with an employee vaccination requirement per President Biden’s mandate. In other words, if they don’t comply, the federal government will cut off their funding and shut them down.

Ochsner was very careful to insist this is not a forced requirement and that employee spouses and partners could pursue other insurance coverage if they don’t wish to comply.

“This is not a mandate as non-employed spouses and domestic partners can choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests,” Thomas stated trying to sidestep the issue and avoid public outcry over the move.

Ochsner is not alone in making the demand for COVID vaccinations.

Delta Air Lines has also just announced that they are raising health insurance premiums by $200 a month for unvaccinated employees beginning Nov. 1. Delta CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo that the charge was necessary because COVID-19 hospitalizations cost the company an average of $50,000 per case.

Anger is mounting over forcing vaccinations on employees and their spouses:

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