Insurers take cue from providers, begin requiring vaccines for employees

Updated Aug. 26 at 10:21 a.m.

Major insurers are beginning to follow in the footsteps of big-name providers in mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces.

Headlining the current crop of insurers issuing these requirements is Cigna, which announced Wednesday that it would require all employees who are returning to its offices in person to be vaccinated.

Cigna said the requirement would take effect Sept. 7. Employees whose work cannot be performed remotely must be fully vaccinated or receive two negative tests for the virus weekly by Oct. 18 before entering their workplace.

The insurer said the policy will "provide these individuals with an extra layer of safety and protection against COVID-19 while onsite."

RELATED: CommonSpirit Health, Kaiser Permanente and 134 other health systems requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces

"It's clear we need to do more to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19, and unlike many aspects of the pandemic, keeping our worksites as safe as possible is something we can control," said Steve Miller, M.D., chief clinical officer of Cigna Corporation, in a statement.

Here's a look at more insurers that have rolled out similar requirements:

CVS Health announced on Aug. 23 that it would require employees who work directly with patients to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, a group that includes pharmacists, nurses and care managers. Executive team members will also be required to be vaccinated as of that date.

New hires to company in these roles as of Sept. 15 must receive their first dose prior to their first day of employment, the healthcare giant said.

"From the start of the pandemic, our decision-making process has been driven by health, safety and science,” said CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch in a statement. “While the vast majority of our employees have chosen to be vaccinated, this decision is in direct response to the dramatic rise in cases among the unvaccinated.”

SCAN has adopted a mandatory vaccine for its employees. Beginning Aug. 27, badge access to its offices will be discontinued for people who are unvaccinated without an exemption. Departments that require onsite work must request badge access, a spokesperson told Fierce Healthcare.

All employees who work in the field or interact physically with others must provide proof that they are fully vaccinated by Oct. 13. All SCAN employees must prove they are fully vaccinated by Jan. 1.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced earlier this week that it would require all employees, boards of directors and guests to be vaccinated.

The insurer set a Nov. 1 deadline for unvaccinated employees to get the shot or to secure a medical or religious exemption.

"Requiring COVID-19 vaccinations reinforces what CareFirst stands for as a champion of health and our role in protecting the communities we serve, those we employ and their families," Brian Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst, stated.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will require workers and other visitors in its offices be vaccinated beginning on Oct. 4, a spokesperson told Fierce Healthcare. The insurer is beginning a voluntary reopening on that day, with a full reopening planned for Jan. 3, 2022.