Vermont health insurance official asks: What if workers with Covid-19 can’t afford to call out sick?

By Guy Page

To reduce Covid-19 transmission, state health officials more than ever are urging Vermonters who are sick with flu symptoms to stay home. But what if workers can’t afford to stay home?

The state’s decision to require health insurers to cover Covid-19 testing and treatment costs is a good plan but just scratches the surface of the actual financial cost of reducing transmission, a state health care insurance official said today. Consider this, he said: “If you’re a wage employee and you think you’re sick but you need the money to pay the rent, what do you do?” It is not unlikely that some employees, including low-paid service industry workers who interact with dozens if not hundreds of customers every day, will not call out sick due to financial necessity.

Guy Page

At present there is no plan to financially assist paycheck-to-paycheck Vermonters who know they should call in sick but cannot afford to do so. “It does kind of put the paid family leave bill into perspective,” the official said. It should be noted that even if H107 had passed, it wouldn’t have taken effect immediately.

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The state prison in St. Johnsbury has suspended all volunteer services, due to Covid-19, effective immediately — except for religious services.

Dearest Valued Volunteers, changing information demands changing responses, NCC Volunteer Services Coordinator Karen Holmes wrote in an email received by volunteers this morning. “With the exception of religious services, we are temporarily suspending all volunteer services effective immediately. I need to emphasize how valuable you all are to the work we do here. The next couple of weeks will no doubt be taxing without your presence.”

Like the University of Vermont, the Vermont State Colleges are preparing for the possibility of remote-learning only classes, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding told the Vermont Daily Chronicle this morning.

Unlike Middlebury College, now in its last week of on-campus classroom instruction, VSC campuses do not have another scheduled break coming up soon. Distance learning staff are working hard preparing faculty and staff for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak requiring the closure of classrooms. Spaulding also noted that the University of Maine system is coming at the problem from another perspective: requiring students to stay on campus and not leave during spring break.

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ISO-New England, operators of the regional electricity transmission grid, have cancelled the Consumer Liaison Group quarterly luncheon scheduled for tomorrow in Woodstock. It is likely to be rescheduled for a date in June.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports.

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3 thoughts on “Vermont health insurance official asks: What if workers with Covid-19 can’t afford to call out sick?

  1. Paycheck to paycheck wage earners present a unique problem in VT. With the economy’s condition outside of Chittenden county being so poor, this scenario of working sick is what will occur. Towns like WRJ, Springfield, Brattleboro, Rutland, and Bennington are economically in the poor house for a large percentage of the working class. Financial support for this group of workers should have been included in the state’s covid-19 plan. Oh wait… what plan? There were so many other things that could also have been considered. Too little, too late.

  2. Don’t state workers get generous sick pay and personal days??

    Or do they bank those sick days for when the skiing is good?

    One way or the other, they are covered, no loss. No tears.

    • Sorry, I did get it wrong, question includes civilian workers, many, not all, of whom are allowed sick days.

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