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DENVER (KDVR) — After Delta Airlines announced it would charge unvaccinated employees with health plans a $200 monthly surcharge, local leaders say they expect to see more companies doing something similar.

A memo from the Delta CEO said the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person, and this surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk for the company.

Christian Hardigree, the dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said this measure could spread to other businesses.

“I think more companies will adopt a similar stance,” Hardigree said.

“Right now, 98% of people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated, and so employers are bearing some of that cost and that risk,” she said.

Unvaccinated surcharge similar to insurance fee for tobacco users

Hardigree pointed out that many insurers already have additional charges for tobacco users, and she thinks this will be similar.

“Of companies that employ over 500 employees, almost 30% of them currently charge an additional charge for those who smoke or use tobacco products,” she said.

But there are other issues. While a $200 monthly surcharge may be enough to push some people to get vaccinated, Hardigree said it may push other people to quit their jobs.

Plus, she believes there are ethical issues to consider.

“I think we have to be cautious of how this impacts, or further impacts, those in those marginalized or vulnerable populations,” she said.

People with certain religious beliefs, medical conditions or disabilities could challenge the surcharge, but Hardigree believes for everyone else, the surcharge could be enforced.