As a mission-driven health plan, our values are a driving force behind the decisions we make — from the kinds of coverage we offer to the way we listen and respond to employees.
We’ve demonstrated those values in our approach to educating employees about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines as they became available. Since March, we’ve published dozens of articles and videos, and hosted open Q&A sessions with our medical experts – all with the goal of sharing trustworthy information and alleviating concerns. We also offered a $200 incentive, which we’ll be reinstating soon.
Three months ago, we made the difficult decision to require vaccination for around 900 employees in leadership positions and roles that require in-person contact with members, including our state’s most vulnerable, and with people outside the company. We still believe this was the right call to balance our commitments to employees, members, and communities alike.
Now, as a federal contractor, we will be required to comply with President Biden’s executive order to ensure our employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. Because we serve federal programs, which account for half the annual revenue that supports our 6,400 jobs, we will require COVID-19 vaccination for all BlueCross employees.
In doing so, we’re aligned with a growing number of health care companies including the majority of our fellow Blue plans, including CareFirst, North Carolina and South Carolina, which have already announced all-employee requirements.
We are respectful of the State of Tennessee’s authority on vaccine requirements and appreciate they have allowed exceptions for federal contractors like BlueCross. We’ve notified the state comptroller’s office of our intent to comply with the federal rules.
Our work over the past year to encourage employee vaccination has helped put us in a strong position, with 72% of our workforce already vaccinated. We will implement our new policy in two groups, with a Dec. 8 deadline for the majority of employees.
We will once again allow employees to request medical and religious accommodations, but the federal guidance does not allow a testing opt out.
Update on employees affected by our earlier requirement policy
As of Nov. 4, 41 employees are no longer with BlueCross because they chose not to fulfill the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for their job role. This includes 19 who left the company Oct. 5, and another 22 who left on Nov. 4, following the end of their accommodation period.
The roughly 900 affected employees who had public-facing roles had until Oct. 4 – six weeks after Pfizer’s full FDA approval — to get fully vaccinated and submit proof, or to request a religious or medical accommodation. We received several dozen requests for medical or religious accommodation, evaluating them one by one according to the appropriate legal guidelines.
While we respect our employee’s views and beliefs, we must take every available safety precaution when employees visit members or providers, or go into the community, on our behalf.
We appreciate our former employees’ service to our members and communities throughout their time with BlueCross, and we wish them well in the future. They are welcome to reapply for a position with the company if they get vaccinated.