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Surcharge for unvaccinated Pima County employees challenged

December 15, 2021 GMT

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A law enforcement union has filed a lawsuit challenging a $45 health insurance surcharge imposed each pay period on Pima County employees who haven’t received the coronavirus vaccination and haven’t been granted exemptions.

The Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs said in its lawsuit that unvaccinated county employees are confronting whether to continue shouldering the costs or get vaccinated, despite personal or medical concerns. The surcharge, which took effect on Nov. 1, would cost an unvaccinated employee close to $1,200 per year.

The association, which filed its lawsuit late last week, alleges the charge violates federal law by failing to offer a reasonable alternative to being vaccinated. The lawsuit said the county’s wellness program, which imposes a surcharge on tobacco users, lets tobacco users take part in alternatives such as smoking cessation programs.

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The county declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Across Arizona on Wednesday, health officials reported 3,249 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 81 more deaths from the virus.

The state has now seen 1,323,997 cases and 23,324 deaths since the pandemic started.

Hospitalizations dipped slightly from a day earlier to 2,723 as of Tuesday.

But some of Arizona’s largest hospital systems, including Banner Health, are being stretched more than ever.

Officials say staff are overwhelmed caring for COVID-19 patients and patients who delayed treatment for other medical issues. It has led to postponement of surgeries and non-urgent primary care doctor visits.