In an internal email, provided exclusively to UncoverDC, Progressive, one of the largest car insurance providers in the United States, informed its employees on Sept. 8 that beginning January 2022, workers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will pay a $25 surcharge per paycheck, or $650 for the year. The company, who boasts the popular—and always maskless—character "Flo from Progressive," declined to reference a specific source for the data used to make its decision, declaring:
"At this point in the pandemic, we know that unvaccinated individuals are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID. The average cost of these hospitalizations covered on our medical plan has been $72,000 and we've had several that amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical claims. In total, our medical plan has incurred over $25 million in COVID-related claims."
Except for plans in California and Hawaii, Progressive self insures the insurance benefits for its company, with Cigna (Progressive recently switched from Aetna to Cigna) serving as the claims organization that processes the company's medical bills. Progressive's medical plan covers roughly 80,000 people, including 37,000 employees and 43,000 spouses, partners, children, and dependents.
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The decision to demand its unvaccinated employees pay a surcharge was made by Progressive, who, "as the insurance company, decides what expenses are covered, what the deductible and coinsurance will be and how much we pay in bi-weekly premiums." The email described the company continues "to learn of Progressive people testing positive for COVID," with many requiring hospitalization, and "several have lost their lives to the virus in the past few weeks." The company justified and compared the personal decision not to inject an experimental "vaccine" into one's body the same as choosing to smoke cigarettes, adding:
"Much like the non-smoker discount that we've had in our plan for years, this surcharge is intended to shift more cost to people who are likely to incur more medical expenses."
The company directed employees not to ask questions right away, explaining they would receive more details in the coming weeks. One prevalent—and unanswered—question is whether the $25 per paycheck surcharge includes the insured spouses, children, and dependents of those employed by Progressive. In addition to the unvaccinated surcharge, the company is raising deductibles by $50 and out-of-pocket maximums by either $200 or $400, depending on the plan. Premiums are also going up. According to Progressive, these increases are due to the rise in medical costs, noting they paid over $500 million in medical expenses in 2021.
The email noted the company hopes this earlier than usual announcement (open enrollment begins October 25) will "provide time for anyone who currently isn't vaccinated to do so before annual enrollment to avoid the surcharge." Additionally, Progressive pointed out the increasing need for mental health care, deciding to double the number of free visits to its Employee Resource Program (EAP), which provides counseling services.
Despite the company's noted COVID-related losses, a recent Fortune article reveals that although car travel was significantly lower in 2020, Progressive nevertheless "gained a windfall of business"—with policies growing by 2.4 million and an additional $3 billion in net premiums written over the previous year. The company's agency auto business and Uber and Lyft premiums decreased due to shelter-in-place restrictions and reduced circulation. But the insurer's commercial lines business saw significant growth in the for-hire transportation business, spurred on by increased demand for shipping services.
Progressive isn't the only major company penalizing its employees for exercising their right not to receive the COVID-19 injection. As previously reported on by UncoverDC, Jim Robo, the President, and CEO of NextEra Energy—the world's largest utility company—just announced, "while I have yet to make a decision on mandating the vaccine," employees who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should expect changes in healthcare premiums, adding, "Much like today's healthcare coverage costs more for high-risk individuals—like smokers—it too may cost more if you choose not to be vaccinated against the virus."