By The Associated Press

October 1, 2021



NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s largest health system is ratcheting up pressure to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Ochsner Health told employees it will charge them a monthly premium of $200 if a spouse or domestic partner covered under an Ochsner health plan is not vaccinated, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reports.

Ochsner has said all employees must be vaccinated by October 29 to keep their jobs.

President and CEO Warner Thomas said the surcharge for unvaccinated spouses and partners is part of an effort to keep health premiums low for employees. As a self-insured organization, Ochsner bears the cost of Covid treatment for patients who are on its insurance plan. Unvaccinated people account for the vast majority of the health system’s Covid patients.

“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 said in a statement emailed to the paper.

The Covid vaccine fee for spouses will begin in 2022 and could deduct up to $2,400 yearly from the employee’s paycheck. The fee is only for domestic partners or spouses, not other dependents such as children who are covered by the employee’s health insurance and are eligible for vaccination, according to a letter Ochsner leaders sent to employees.

Thomas said the surcharge isn’t a mandate because spouses and partners can choose other insurance coverage, and because they can also apply for a medical or religious exemption.

Meanwhile, Louisiana is trying to encourage more people to get the Covid-19 shot by offering them a cash incentive.