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Another Vaccination Incentive for Feds, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

A third health insurance company has announced that it will offer a cash incentive to federal employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kaiser Permanente announced last week that beginning August 15, federal employees enrolled in the health care giant’s Federal Employee Health Benefits Program insurance plan will receive $50 on their “health payment card” once their Kaiser Permanente medical record reflects they have been fully vaccinated. The deadline to be fully vaccinated and receive the cash benefit is Dec. 31.

The health payment card is similar to other insurers’ flexible spending accounts, in that enrollees can use the card to pay for medical expenses like copays, dental visits, and other medical costs. The incentive is open to adult plan members and their spouses.

“Fighting COVID-19 has been a top priority at Kaiser Permanente since the start of the pandemic and vaccines are our most powerful tool to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” said Michelle Showalter, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president for Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and Military Health business development in a statement. “This new incentive for federal employees is not only intended to increase vaccination rates, but also to protect and support our nation’s federal workforce and its families during this challenging time.”

Earlier this month, President Biden announced that federal agencies will require employees to attest that they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to a weekly testing regimen and agree to wear masks while at federal facilities.

Lodging Per Diem Largely Unchanged in Fiscal 2022

The General Services Administration announced last week that it would keep the bulk of travel reimbursement rates unchanged in fiscal 2022, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning Oct. 1, the base lodging rate will remain at $96 per night, and regional rates, based on the average daily rates at local hotels, also will remain at their 2021 levels. But per diem rates for meals and incidental expenses will see a slight increase in the next fiscal year: the standard rate will increase from $55 to $59, while non-standard area tiers, which vary by region, will increase from the current range of $56-$76 to $59-$79 beginning in October.

Reimbursement rates for other expenses, like gas mileage, have not yet been announced for next year, as they change on a calendar year basis, not the fiscal year.

Most federal agencies currently have restrictions on who can travel for work due to the pandemic, and it is unclear how agencies will begin lifting those rules as they reopen. The White House’s vaccine mandate also bars nonvaccinated employees from engaging in official travel.