Pima County Analysis Shows Vaccinated Employees Have Less Healthcare Costs Than Unvaccinated Employees – State of Reform
With the ban Regarding COVID-19 immunization orders for state government agency employees taking effect Sept. 24, new data shows that vaccinated Pima County employees have cost the county “significantly” less in healthcare costs than unvaccinated employees.
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To encourage immunization rates, on August 31, 2021, the Pima County Administrator instituted an immunization ordinance for all new and promoted employees, except for those who had medical or religious accommodation. On September 7, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors established a vaccination surcharge of $45.51 on the health insurance medical premium per payment period for unvaccinated current employees in the county’s health insurance plan. The surcharge went into effect in November 2021 and did not apply to employees who had received a medical or religious exemption.
in one memorandum District administrator Jan Lesher wrote to the supervisory board that “the political goal of encouraging vaccination of our workforce has been achieved”. Before the surcharge was introduced, there were 4,623 vaccinated employees in Pima County, and after it was introduced, that number rose to 5,455 by the end of the year.
The data included in the Pima County analysis compared healthcare costs between unvaccinated employees who pay the supplement and vaccinated employees from October 1, 2021 to July 31, 2021.
The 568 unvaccinated employees who applied for healthcare during this period accounted for 17.3% (approximately). Healthcare costs for unvaccinated employees in Pima County was $768 per employee per month compared to $475 per employee per month for vaccinated employees.
The memorandum notes that the largest cost differences were seen in the medical cost categories of inpatient facilities and specialist physicians.
Francisco Garcia, Deputy County Administrator and Chief Medical Officer for Pima County, emphasized the value of this information for financial planning.
“This means that as a large employer, it really costs us more money to have unvaccinated employees. From a healthcare plan management perspective, we need to consider these contingencies, we need to make sure we have sufficient reserves to cover these types of risks [cost differential between unvaccinated and vaccinated employees],” he said. “This data shows that if you’re able to do something like that, it [leads] to real savings in dollars and cents.
Although there are relatively few staff in this unvaccinated category, they incur disproportionate costs as they are the ones who need pulmonologists and other advanced specialists in treatment. I think we wanted the opportunity to show that this policy intervention, implemented by our board, has actually produced positive results and had a positive impact on our healthcare spending.”
While Pima County’s immunization mandate and health supplement are scheduled to end on September 24, the memorandum recommends replacing these measures with an additional 16 hours of paid leave for employees who provide annual documentation of COVID-19 booster status “to provide an incentive to.” create a highly vaccinated workforce.”
“I think we’ve shown that large employers are able to control healthcare costs for their employees by requiring vaccinations,” Garcia said. “As a government employer, I can’t do that, but it should raise the question of whether or not private sector employers, who may be in a different legal position, have these kinds of requirements.”