August 30 Tip of the Week

Many employers are now requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  Mandating a vaccination is allowed, as long as an employer provides exemptions for medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs.

A new question that’s emerging is whether or not an employer can charge higher group health insurance premiums for their unvaccinated employees.  The EEOC has not yet provided guidance on this topic.  However, there are a few different points to consider.

One idea is an insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees.  However, any surcharge would need to meet the regulations for both the ACA and HIPAA wellness programs.  Concerns also exist that a surcharge could potentially be an unallowable penalty under federal or state insurance rules. 

Raising premiums on unvaccinated workers is another potential step being considered by employers.  But the acceptability of that action is unclear at this time.  Given the relative newness of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on insurance, it’s not clear how insurance companies could make an actuarial determination of how much premiums should be raised for the unvaccinated.  Charging higher premiums to individuals who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons also brings the risk of disability discrimination claims. 

Accordingly, a number of questions still exist at this time on whether higher premiums or surcharges for the unvaccinated are allowable.  It’s very likely that information on this issue will continue to evolve.  Contact the attorneys at myHRcounsel for advice on this and other employment law issues.