Thursday, October 28, 2021

Do vaccine mandates break the bank?

With the flu season upon us, and no answer from the Trump administration on the need for better vaccines, the January announcement by Biden to enforce a vaccination requirement in his wife’s absence now looms large.

Many business owners on social media claim they’re now required to vaccinate their employees, and say having to “choke down” their employee wellness-programs – which don’t explicitly mention vaccinations – is hurting the bottom line.

“We’ll need to get rid of the nurse and not pay for her, as she will no longer help us manage the sick leave management,” wrote one business owner.

“They want mandatory vaccinations in my business and I have no time for vaccination for about 13 non-full time workers,” said another.

Related: When it comes to vaccinations, everyone is welcome — for now

When CNN called several large employers Monday about the incoming, confusing mandate from Biden, a CNN corporate spokesman said he didn’t know whether to pass on the question to a press spokesperson. A later CNN statement said the office “is looking into the issue, and if the employer has discussed this, this would inform what they say.”

But, with the flu season still fairly young and with some the U.S. officially in a high-risk period for infection, some employers are wary of getting more involved in vaccination mandates.

“Anything that puts that in the hands of the business is very tricky,” says Asci Banker, an attorney who specializes in health-care law at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Related: Companies’ line of defense for potential government vaccines

For the time being, a lot of the mandate for businesses to vaccinate their workers is being left up to individual employers.

You may have heard that vaccines do get combined into the benefit package, but, according to a number of providers, insurance companies and a recently released report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the new mandate is only requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to offer vaccinations for certain diseases.

Experts suggest that some employers will voluntarily offer vaccinations voluntarily, in conjunction with wellness programs and paid sick days.

“We’re not sure the bill is clear enough,” says Ranvir Ramaswamy, the CEO of HealthTap, a health-care technology company, who says his company has also received calls from some hospitals that want to get rid of vaccines in lieu of wellness programs.

Related: More US cities could put a ‘vaccine shortage’ alert on sales

“There’s still lots of questions about what the standard of evidence is and what the government is willing to allow and when, and what the data say about those things.”

Many businesses, he says, are simply eager to offer wellness programs without having to think about vaccinations.

“Many small companies don’t want to ever have to have to deal with these kind of issues,” says Ken Thorpe, professor of health policy at Emory University.

The new bill, introduced by Republican Lamar Alexander from Tennessee and Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, has some of the details of the recommended medical office-based vaccine.

“It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for employers,” says Tony Monroe, CEO of MKN of America, a unit of MedStar Health.

“You know what we are going to do – we are going to have to vaccinate. That’s not going to change and won’t change until we have a broader reassessment of where science is going.”

However, doctors and advocates agree that with the best vaccines, even the youngest children can be given a second vaccine, just to be sure.

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