The City of Durham will soon implement an insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees after ending its mandatory COVID-19 testing program for city employees on April 29.
Unvaccinated city employees will be required to pay a surcharge of $70 a month starting in July, according to a City of Durham Human Resources announcement in September. The surcharge will increase to $100 a month beginning in July 2023.
The purpose of the surcharge is to “encourage employees to get vaccinated” and “partially offset the expected increasing expenses from COVID-19, including the testing program,” according to a message from Human Resources obtained and tweeted by WRAL reporter Sarah Krueger on April 27.
As of May 2, Durham reported 86% of its city employees as fully vaccinated.
Employees who complete city wellness requirements and are exempt from the vaccination requirement due to religions or medical reasons are not subject to the vaccine surcharge.
Durham city employees who were hired before Dec. 31, 2021 without being fully vaccinated will be required to pay the monthly surcharge for health insurance for the 2023 fiscal year starting July 1. Employees not fully vaccinated by Dec. 31, 2022 must pay a $100 monthly surcharge for the 2024 fiscal year.
City employees are covered by a self-insured group insurance health plan, meaning that Durham pays insurance-related expenses from a shared fund. The fund consists of employee premium payments and taxpayer dollars. The surcharge for unvaccinated employees must be paid in addition to existing monthly insurance premiums.
Under current insurance coverage, the monthly individual contribution for city employees, at a wellness rate, is $63.25. Unvaccinated surcharge payments would more than double the required monthly individual employee insurance contribution.
Employer insurance surcharges are permitted under federal law, as long as they comply with nondiscrimination regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
In early April, the City of Raleigh announced a similar surcharge plan for unvaccinated city employees. Raleigh’s monthly premium surcharge is $50 and will go into effect starting on Jan. 1, 2023.
Late last year, employers across the country implemented insurance vaccine surcharges for similar reasons. Delta Air Lines was one of the first major companies to enact such a policy, requiring a $200 monthly surcharge for unvaccinated employees. However, Delta ended its insurance surcharge in April, citing a new, less strict company policy on dealing with the pandemic.
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Vishal Jammulapati is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.