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Nevada will be the first state in the country to charge state employees who are enrolled in insurance plans for public employees an extra fee for not being vaccine-free.
The state Public Employees Benefit Program Board (BBP) voted on Thursday to charge unvaccinated workers up to $55 a month to offset the costs of testing those who haven’t had shots. The tests are required at certain workplaces.
“This is a pandemic which is being borne on the shoulders of all. And now this particular burden — the testingis to be shared with the shoulders of those who choose not to (be vaccinated),” said DuAne Young, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is the policy director.
July 2022 will be the first day of surcharges to state employees and dependents of adults.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, plans in the public sector have covered all coronavirus related testing and treatment for state employees. While many other plans have stopped covering vaccines, state workers’ insurance has continued to cover the entire cost.
In Nevada workplaces in which less than 70 percent of employees have received shots the employees must be tested weekly to stop the spread of the virus. Although President Joe Biden’s work requirements are subject to court challenges, if they do go into effect, all unvaccinated employees will have to submit to weekly tests — a development that will substantially increase the cost for the state.
Officials stated that coronavirus-related claims made by state workers are expected to surpass $6 billion by 2021. By charging state workers and their dependents age 18 and over the plans will help offset the cost of testing people who refuse to be vaccine-free.
Laura Rich, the benefit program’s executive director, said some plans for the public sectorincluding those for employees at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport have imposed surcharges on unvaccinated employees. However to her knowledge, Nevada is the first state in the country to impose an all-encompassing surcharge on plans for public employees.
She said the price was similar to a smoking surcharge, and that it will cover an annual sum of $18 million in testing costs. With thousands of unvaccinated workers She said that administrators had to determine the amount of tax dollars should be used to pay for the medical expenses of those who chose not to get vaccines.
“PEBP is largely a taxpayer-funded plan that is not based on premiums paid by employees,” she said. “Since we don’t have the ability to modify the state subsidy portion of the plan outside of a legislative session, we are left with no other option but to look at other options.”
The surcharge faced liberal-leaning labor unions with the dilemma of. It was a policy that aims to promote vaccination and a policy that increases healthcare costs for workers, which is an integral part of their advocacy. The surcharge plan was resisted by labor lobbyists from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Nevada Faculty Alliance.
Tom Verducci is a member of the board representing state workers’ deferred compens plans. He opposed the surcharge and said he was against the idea of imposing additional costs on workers regardless of the reason.
“State employees have been hit hard with no raises over many years. I am reminded of the Lovelock worker who worked for the Department of Corrections. He was paid $800 per month and resided in a trailer along with his three children. He said, “I have a hard time dealing with this one.”
Nevada estimates that around 1250 state employees and 5,000 employees of Nevada’s System for Higher Education aren’t vaccination-free. Rich said that the state hopes penalties and incentives such as the surcharge will inspire more people to become vaccinations.
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