Delta Air Lines recently announced that its employees are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, or face a $200 per month increase in their health insurance premiums. But the penalty may not actually help the company mitigate the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, say two Northeastern scholars.
There’s a moral reason: Imposing a surcharge on employees who don’t get vaccinated may help Delta cover its increased health insurance costs, but if unvaccinated employees are willing to pay it, they’re still exposing other employees and airline customers to greater risk of infection, says Patricia Illingworth, professor of philosophy and business at Northeastern.
There’s also a purely logistical reason: Employees might not be willing to pay. And the penalty leaves Delta Air Lines on shaky legal ground, says Gary Young, professor of strategic management and healthcare systems.
Delta’s policy will be phased in over the coming months: Unvaccinated employees will immediately be required to wear masks indoors on company property. Then, on Sept. 12, they’ll be required to test weekly for the virus, and isolate if the results are positive. On Nov. 1, the $200 monthly health insurance premium surcharge will go into effect.
Delta officials told The Washington Post that roughly 75 percent of its employees are already vaccinated, and the company has been requiring all new employees to be vaccinated since May. None of its vaccinated employees have been hospitalized since the spread of the Delta variant, a spokesperson told The Post, but for those who have needed hospital stays, the average cost to the company has been $50,000 per person.