Monthly insurance surcharge for unvaccinated state workers: Is Nevada right?
- On December 2, 2021, Nevada was the first state to enact an estimate of $55 monthly surcharges for unvaccinated public workers via the Public Employees’ Benefit Program (PEBP). The move claims to raise $18.4 million in revenue.
- Based on State and NSHE leadership, there are a total of 5,000 unvaccinated state employees and 1,250 unvaccinated NSHE employees.
- As of December 3, 2021, 49.37% of the population of Nevada has been vaccinated, while 57.94% have at least one dose.
- The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers have the “legal right” to make a vaccine requirement, but employees also have the right to request reasonable accommodations.
- On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a federally-imposed vaccine mandate for 80+ million private sector and federal American workers. Employers with 100+ workers must require vaccination or weekly tests.
Nevada has announced it will implement an insurance surcharge for unvaccinated state workers in an attempt to ease the expense of COVID-19 testing, which the state paid $6 million for in 2021. Nevada's taxpayers would bear financial responsibility for unvaccinated state employees without the surcharge. 'This is pandemic has been shouldered on the burden of everyone. And now this particular burden—the testing—should be shouldered on the burden of those who refuse to (be vaccinated),' said policy director DuAne Young. Nevada is right to expect those choosing to remain unvaccinated take responsibility for their actions, especially as uncertainty over the Omicron variant ushers us into another season of living with COVID.
Laura Rich, executive officer of the PEBP, says a recent survey indicated that nearly 70% of unvaccinated employees would be encouraged to get vaccinated in the event of a surcharge. This encouragement to vaccinate will save lives. According to the CDC, the unvaccinated are five times more likely to catch COVID-19 and ten times more likely to die from it. Unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations have already cost the US billions of dollars.
We have reached the stage in our fight against COVID-19 where we begin getting tougher on those that refuse to vaccinate. Some argue that additional insurance costs are unfair to those experiencing financial hardship. The reality is vaccinations are free, while the physical and fiscal toll of the unvaccinated is not. It is unbeneficial to accommodate the seemingly selfish minority who willfully undermine the health of our society.
The State of Nevada is completely wrong for stacking a surcharge to employees' already high health insurance fees who do not wish to get vaccinated. The employees were granted this plan under a certain set of guidelines; it may even have influenced why some of them accepted the position in the first place.
The state claims it is used to offset the cost of private testing done by companies. However, workers can report to free public testing sites and document their results. With that being clear to employees, the surcharge may simply feel like an unnecessarily imposed 'consequence' by their employer. Between January 1 and April 30, the CDC reported over 10,000 breakthrough infections coming from fully vaccinated people.
Nevada state employees suffered budget cuts and a lack of raises due to the pandemic; adding an insurance fee will cut into their pockets even more. In January, Nevada state employees were already presented with a plan that cut their basic life insurance in half. Further inconveniencing state employees is completely unnecessary, especially during a time of such uncertainty and the livelihoods of these front-line workers already stretched to the max.
Employees should not be charged for the potential of catching a virus when everyone is capable of transmitting the virus. With new variants of the virus being introduced, it is also unclear the level of protection that the vaccine will provide toward that. Just under 70% of Nevada's employees are vaccinated, leaving the state with minimal responsibility for testing.