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COVID-19 Vaccine Tracking Strategies: What Are Your Options?

In early September, President Biden announced a series of measures to help increase vaccination rates in the U.S. And part of that is for employers with more than 100 employees to require vaccination or weekly testing – or else be subject to fines.

The proposed OSHA rule, which would affect two-thirds of the nation’s workforce, could carry a $14,000 fine per violation for large employers. It would also require that employers have a way to track and report on employee vaccinations, as well as testing activity and results.

Plenty of questions remain as to the details of this mandate, including which employees it applies to and how enforcement will work. We’re still awaiting guidance from OSHA and the Department of Labor on what has been designated an Emergency Temporary Standard.

According to the latest update from Capitol Hill insider Chris Condeluci, even when we do get that guidance, the mandate will likely be subject to legal battles, so there is a good deal of uncertainty surrounding all of this. 

However, it has drawn greater attention to how employers are managing COVID and return-to-work strategies, which include tracking and/or requiring vaccination for employees. Even before President Biden’s executive order, there was growing interest in either mandating vaccination or tracking vaccine status:

  • 52% of employers said they would have one or more vaccine mandate requirements in the workplace by the fourth quarter of 2021.1
  • 85% of employers are looking to track vaccination status, regardless of if they are looking to mandate or not.2
  • 50% of employers have said that they expect a system like Benefitplace to be able to help.3

Mandate or no mandate, we’ve spoken with our customers and have designed set of options to support various strategies they’re looking to implement as they and navigate the unpredictability of COVID-19.

Vaccination Tracking on the “Honor System”

Scenario: You’re looking to track vaccination status of your employees, but you do not wish to collect proof of vaccination or apply a surcharge.

How Benefitfocus can help: A custom survey question is created to ask whether the employee is vaccinated as a task to be completed on their profile in Benefitplace. The employee simply answers yes, no or that they are exempt, and the employer can track with a report of survey responses.

Vaccination Tracking with Proof

Scenario: You need to track the vaccination status of your employees and wish to collect documentation as proof of vaccination.

How Benefitfocus can help: If the employee answers yes to the survey question described in option 1, you can instruct the employee to upload proof of vaccination (i.e., their vaccine card) within the Benefitplace Document Center. This is similar to how you’d collect required documents for things like dependent verification and marriage certificates.

Vaccination Tracking with Surcharge for Unvaccinated Employees 

Scenario: You need to track vaccination status of your employees and wish to apply a surcharge to those who are unvaccinated.

How Benefitfocus can help: If an employee answers no to the survey question described in option 1, Benefitplace can automatically calculate and apply a surcharge for that employee. Depending on the approach you want to take, the surcharge can apply to any unvaccinated employee or unvaccinated employees who enroll in your medical plan.  

Bonus: Tracking and Managing COVID-19 with Claims Data Analytics

Something else, which Benefitfocus customers have been able to take advantage of since the first days of the pandemic and found very valuable, is the ability to track COVID-19 related utilization and costs through our health care claims data reporting and analytics tool for self-funded employers—Health Insights.

Throughout the plan year, employers can see COVID-19 related claims and spending, and how their costs are trending over time and impacted by the various return-to-work and safety policies we’ve talked about. They can identify employee populations who are at high risk for COVID-19 based on other underlying conditions, and use that info to inform their strategy and policies. And they can even track actual vaccinations and positive tests if those things are received through the medical plan.

As part of Benefitfocus’ ongoing support of our customers’ needs, we’re closely monitoring new vaccine and testing requirements and engaging with government resources and subject matter experts to help ensure we are ready to support compliance for any new Federal, state or local laws, rules or guidelines. Visit our resource center to find the latest regulatory updates, pulse surveys and supporting solutions.

 

2. Gartner

3. Gartner Webinar: Updating COVID Vaccine and Return-to-Work Plans in Light of the Delta Variant: Adapt Your Legal, Compliance and HR Strategy

 

 

About the Author

Logan Butler is a senior solution marketing manager at Benefitfocus, where he leads the go-to-market strategy for the company’s employer product portfolio. He has been with Benefitfocus for six years as a member of the marketing team, helping to tell the story of how Benefitfocus empowers employers to create and deliver a world-class benefits experience. Logan contributes regularly to the Benefitfocus blog and is a frequent guest speaker at Benefitfocus events across the country. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia and a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) designation from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Profile Photo of Logan Butler