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Utah’s public employees can get cash for getting vaccinated against COVID-19

Incentive also applies to family members, with higher rewards for older Utahns.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A nurse lines up stickers and action hero bandages as 12-15 year olds get their vaccinations against COVID-19 at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

The health insurance provider that covers Utah’s public employees will give incentives — up to $250 a pop — to state workers and their family members who get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday that the incentive plan being implemented by PEHP will start on Friday. PEHP covers about 173,000 public workers and their family members, according its most recent annual financial report.

The incentive plan, Cox said, will offer $100 to anyone covered by PEHP between the ages of 12 and 49 who gets vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time — and $250 for people age 50 and older getting vaccinated for the first time. There also is a $50 incentive for those who get COVID-19 booster shots.

“We still have far too many who have not received the vaccine,” Cox said at his monthly televised news conference from the KUED studios in Salt Lake City.

Chet Loftis, PEHP’s managing director, said the provider’s costs for giving the incentive — which only is available for state employees, not their families — “depends on how many eligible people get the vaccine or booster after October 1,” though it could be in the range of $3.9 million overall.

That could actually be a bargain for the health insurance provider, Loftis said. PEHP estimates the average annual hospital cost for an unvaccinated person is around $500, while the average for a vaccinated person is about $15.

The incentive only is available the 75,000 state employees and their families covered under PEHP, Loftis said. The state of Utah is the only PEHP client to request the incentive program, he said, but other clients could get it if they ask.

PEHP worked with the governor’s office to develop the incentive plan, but not with Cox himself, Loftis said.

PEHP is a division of Utah Retirement Systems, and is a government entity under Utah Code Title 49.

Cox urged “our partners in the business community” to also do what they can to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.

— Tribune reporter Bethany Rodgers contributed to this article.

Noon, Oct. 1, 2021: This story has been corrected to describe who is eligible for the incentive.

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