business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday we took note of a Wall Street Journal report that Kroger "is eliminating some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees," telling employees that "it will no longer provide two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract Covid-19, unless local jurisdictions require otherwise. Kroger will also add a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other nonunion employees."

I commented:

The argument here, since the moment federal vaccine mandates were announced, has been that the feds were giving businesses cover - that they could get tougher in their own mandates and blame it on the Biden administration.

I think this is a good move by Kroger, and I hope other businesses follow its lead.

I've been saying here for some time - and we have this conversation below in "Your Views" - that insurance companies ought to tell people that if they don't get vaccinated and get Covid, their medical expenses will not be covered.  And the government ought to tell people that they can't claim unemployment benefits or any other government benefits of they're not vaccinated.

We had a story yesterday about organized labor demanding greater Covid protections from retailers.  Step one ought to be to require employees to be vaccinated, and the unions ought to be on board with that.

One MNB reader responded:

To be blunt, I find these types of decisions and the widespread support of them terrifying. I hate to use cliches, but “slippery slope” immediately comes to mind.

Businesses and insurance companies have long desired these sorts of rules to cut costs and increase profits, respectively. I believe you’ve published stories about companies floating the idea of giving potential employees a genetic test to determine their prospective liability (both work availability and impact on insurance costs). Many businesses offer lower deductibles to associates that buy healthy foods (data gathered by associates sharing their grocery purchase data). Will either of these become a requirement for employment?

How would you feel if an associate that has a family history of diabetes getting fired or having their insurance canceled because they buy too much fruit, juice, or Twinkies? I know people will think this is some sort of straw man argument, but many pundits (some in the medical community) have floated denying care to the unvaccinated who go to the hospital with COVID. Would you deny care to someone with heart disease who’s overweight? What about someone who hurts themselves while mountain biking?

Probably not, but that’s only because those aren’t hot political topics, driving the 24-hour news cycle. Yes, COVID is a serious health concern that’s killed millions of people worldwide. I don’t think the vast majority of people would deny that (yes, some do… but they also don’t believe in the moon landing). My argument is that when these types of policies get widespread acceptance, they’ll be looking for another ox to gore.

MNB reader Mike Blume chimed in:

Why stop at Covid vaccinations.  Are you on board with the same regulations for Flu Shots?  And will this apply for EVERY Covid Booster shot that comes along every several months for the remainder of our lives?  When has it become okay to allow the government to dictate what goes into our bodies?  What’s next, will they dictate what we can eat?  Oh wait, they are already trying to do that by eliminating Cow meat!

When they start mandating and adhering to the same rules they want for the American people, for themselves and all the illegal immigrants coming into this country, then maybe I will reconsider my position.  This is America.  The best Country in the World.  A Free Country (for now).

It is a free country.  If you work for Kroger, you're free not to be vaccinated … but you're going to end up paying more for health insurance.  Kroger, it seems to me, is free to make this decision.

We're talking here about a contagious disease that has killed some 800,000 members of the US population in less than two years, and for which vaccines have been proven to be effective and safe.  If Kroger decides that it needs to find new ways to incentivize employees to get vaccinated so they don't infect shoppers and fellow employees, that seems reasonable to me.

Me, I'd like to be free of people who keep talking about freedom but never talk about mutual responsibility.

From MNB reader Steve Williams:

I am on your page in this subject. Then my wife and I were discussing it and she disagreed with me. Her point was where do we draw the line on insurances refusing to pay for procedures, or up-charging for perceived health issues? We don't charge over weight people more, or refuse to cover their hospital bills. We pay for drug addiction and drug addicts have free access to drugs that will reverse an overdose. People can get a sex change and insurance covers that. 

I think Covid is clearly a public health issue, but at this stage of vaccinations, I hate to say we probably won't get the remaining population in the US vaccinated. They made their decision and are holding their ground. Punishing them will not help convince them to get vaccinated.  It will probably just make them more likely to refuse the Covid vaccine and maybe even future vaccines. 

I wish I had a perfect solution for everyone. Here in NY they reinstated the indoor mask mandate, unless you are requiring vaccination to enter the building. We know even vaccinated people can catch and spread Covid, so that notion of being "safe" and free to go maskless if you're vaccinated just make no sense to me. Full disclosure,  I'm fully vaccinated and have had my booster. But these mandates are just driving a wedge between the two sides when we need to move on and work on mending the division thats spreading like wildfire.

Okay … I'd agree that how to respond to Covid-19 is something that has helped drive a wedge between people in this country.  (Though not the only thing.)

But if removing the wedge means taking a less assiduous approach to public health and the notion of mutual civic responsibility, I'd vote no.