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vaccination nation

Who pays for the vaccine mandate's testing alternative?

On Thursday, the details of the Biden administration's vaccine mandate were finally released by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reports NPR and The New York Times.

Per the rules, companies have until Jan. 4, 2022 to "ensure all their workers are either fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing and mandatory masking," writes the Times. The guidance is expected to apply to an estimated 84 million workers.

But as for that testing option ... who is paying for it? Though tests vary in cost, rapid swabs range from $15 to $25, while PCRs cost $127 on average.

Well, according to OSHA's decree, employers are actually not required to pay for or provide testing to the unvaccinated (though certain agreements may dictate otherwise); however, human resources professional Lauren Winans told USA Today she believes employers might end up having "more than one option." 

"Businesses are not going to want the infrastructure of the workforce to collapse," she said, especially employers in industries challenged by labor shortages, like tourism, retail and restaurants.Those kinds of businesses, Winan said, will "have no choice eventually but to cover the cost." Even if the arrangement begins with employees covering their own tests, employers will "ultimately have to foot the bill," she predicts.

And considering the tests aren't technically medically necessary, health insurance may not cover their cost, either, noted Steven Schinderle of Mercer, an employee benefits consultancy. So, in the event an employer isn't covering testing, employees should expect to pay out of pocket.

Hourly workers, who are subject to federal labor laws, will probably have to "be on the clock" when they're tested, per Winans, while salaried employees may be required to procure a swab on their own time.

All in all, expect COVID testing to change your workday. "There's a lot stacked against us," explained Winans. There's a chance "productivity is going to slow."