Bexar County employees could receive a discount of up to $ 1,000 on their health insurance premiums for being fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a program that would allow fully vaccinated county employees to collect up to $ 1,000, depending on the type of health insurance policy they have with the county. Employees insured outside the county can receive $ 500 if they are fully vaccinated, county manager David Smith said. The amount employees receive as a rebate will be based on the amount they pay in bonuses.
Although he still has to work out the details, such as how employees report their immunization status and how to pay them reimbursement, Smith said that “the basic concept is to get employees to get vaccinated.”
Commissioners applauded the idea.
“It is not a mandate, but a strong incentive,” said Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct. 3) said. “And it’s not just about writing a check to get the vaccine. This is a refund for what they are already paying a premium in their policy.
The reimbursement would be funded with federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act; Bexar County expects to receive a total of $ 388 million for coronavirus recovery efforts, half of which has already been accepted by the federal government.
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time; we knew we could compensate employees and had the flexibility to use those funds, ”Wolff said. “It made sense to tell employees, ‘Get vaccinated by the end of the year.’ “
The county vaccination reimbursement will also apply retroactively, meaning that employees who have already been fully vaccinated can still receive a reimbursement.
“I never liked the idea of saying, ‘Let me give you an award for getting you vaccinated when everyone did the right thing,’” Wolff said. “It does it for everyone.”
Commissioners have set an Oct. 15 deadline for county employees to be fully immunized and present proof to the county in order to receive reimbursement. They had originally considered December 15, but Commissioner Tommy Calvert expressed concern that the later date would not convey the urgency to get the vaccine while the delta variant circulates and more people contract the coronavirus.
“The virus is spreading eight times faster than before and we can already smell it,” Calvert said.
The county will also explore how to offer a discount to non-county employees who work at county facilities as contract workers, which primarily include cleaning and security staff, who had to work during the pandemic.
University Health president and CEO George Hernandez said on Tuesday there were 390 vaccination sites in Bexar County. Hernandez stressed the importance of immunization, as hospital beds continue to fill with unvaccinated patients, straining resources.
“Nurses cannot turn away someone who is not vaccinated and say, ‘You brought him in.’ This is not an appropriate response, ”he said. “They have to take care of the unvaccinated and they have to take care of the vaccinated. They want to help people. But they are tired, they also have families.
To help hospital staff, University Health on Monday signed a contract for 71 temporary nurses, who are more expensive than permanent nurses and therefore require more taxpayer money to be funded, Hernandez said.