September 30, 2022

Pima County raises health insurance costs for unvaccinated employees

TUCSON (KVOA) – Pima County employees who refuse to get the COVID-19 shot may face some difficulties in the workplace after the county’s supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to implement vaccine disincentives.

Moments after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released a legal report that called the City of Tucson’s employee vaccine mandate “illegal,” Pima County Board of Supervisors moved forward with its own approach to encouraging its workforce to get vaccinated amid the delta variant case surge.

Back on Aug. 10, the Board of Supervisors moved to not implement a vaccine mandate for its employees after Gov. Doug Ducey signed  Senate Bill 1824, prohibiting local governments from establishing vaccine passports, mandating COVID-19 vaccinations and requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status.

With this newly signed law officially in effect starting Sept. 29, the governor issued an executive order on Aug. 16 that says “any county, city, town or political subdivision official that implements a vaccine mandate contrary to the authorities outlined in this order, is in violation of A.R.S. 36-114 and 36-184 and such actions are punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor and subject to legal action by individuals for violation of their rights under Arizona law.”

While the City of Tucson moved forward with a vaccine mandate for its staff, the county leaders decided to take another approach by drafting various incentives and disincentives to push its employees to get vaccinated.

On Aug. 16, the board voted 3-2 to award its vaccinated employees $300 and three extra days off. On Aug. 10, the county leaders approved the following benefits for its vaccinated staff:

  • Use of up to 90 minutes of paid work time for each required vaccine shot, if the appointment is during regular work hours;
  • Use of Federal Emergency Paid Sick Time (FEPST) leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (if available) for vaccine-related symptoms/side effects;
  • Face less-restrictive travel guidelines with an immediate return to work after conclusion of travel, so long as the traveling employee has experienced no symptoms; 
  • Permitted to return to work earlier after experiencing onset of COVID-19 symptoms, with a receipt of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result and remaining symptom-free for 48 hours; and 
  • Qualification for 50 Healthy Lifestyle Activity points that equates to a $5 savings on an employee’s health insurance premiums every two week

The board then held a special meeting on Aug. 16. In a 3-2 vote, the supervisors moved to award its employees who get or have already gotten vaccinated $300 and three extra days off.

The board then took the next logical step by approving disincentives that will be placed on its employees who are unvaccinated.

The list of disincentives are listed below:

  • Required mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees;
  • Voiding the health insurance premium discounts for unvaccinated employees, which would add a financial vaccination incentive that increases premiums paid by employees by up to $35.00 per pay period or $910.00 annually; and
  • Developing a separate health insurance medical premium for unvaccinated employees
    due to medical expense risk related to contracting COVID-19. An additional $25.51
    remaining surcharge can be applied to all tier levels (employee only, employee plus
    spouse, employee plus children, and employee plus family) or $663.26 annually.

On Tuesday, Arizona Department of Health Services reported that 52.2 percent of Pima County residents are vaccinated.

To register for a vaccine appointment, visit podvaccine.azdhs.gov or azhealth.gov/findvaccine, or call 1-844-542-8201.

To learn more about the vaccination sites, visit azdhs.gov.

Pima County raises health insurance costs for unvaccinated employees