GREELEY, COLO. – JBS USA, a unit of Sao Paulo, Brazil-based JBS S.A., pledged to cover 100% of health care costs associated with COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment.
The company said the change to the company’s health plan is retroactive to March 1, 2020, so any employees or their dependents who incurred eligible out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment under the company plan since March 1 will be reimbursed for their costs. Individuals enrolled in the health plan will pay no deductible or co-insurance, JBS said, and their respective Health Reimbursement Account funds will not be used to cover any of the costs. The company also provides free, random surveillance testing of asymptomatic employees at its facilities.
“As we continue to face a time of great uncertainty due to the pandemic, we wanted to provide additional support to our team members and their families in a meaningful way,” said Andre Nogueira, chief executive officer of JBS USA. “We are fortunate to be able to eliminate COVID-19 healthcare costs for our team members and their families. We strongly believe this is the right thing to do during the greatest challenge of our generation. This is just one of the ways we are prioritizing the health and safety of our workforce, and we will continue learning, adapting and doing all we can to protect our team members.”
The company was criticized after several families of plant employees who died from COVID-19 filed for workers’ compensation benefits to cover hospital bills and funeral expenses, and those claims were denied. At least six individuals who worked at the company’s processing plant in Greeley, Colo., died from the illness.
Workers’ compensation insurance protects businesses and employees from costs incurred by an injury on the job or an illness contracted in the workplace. In the case of COVID-19-related illnesses, involved parties have been challenged to determine if the affected individual contracted the disease in the plant or in the community outside the plan.
Nikki Richardson, spokeswoman for JBS USA, said, “This is an enhancement to our existing benefit policy that will cover all out-of-pocket COVID-related medical expenses for our covered team members and their dependents. The decision to file a workers’ compensation claim is personal to each team member and we respect their right to do so.”
However, under the new policy, no JBS USA team employee enrolled in the company’s healthcare plan will pay an out-of-pocket health expense associated with the coronavirus, and the benefit extends to family members who are enrolled in the plan as dependents.
There are nearly 90,000 team members and dependents enrolled in the healthcare plan, she said.
Through the company’s Hometown Strong initiative, JBS USA said, it has invested more than $200 million in health and safety measures to protect its workforce, more than $160 million in increased wages and bonuses and $50 million to support local communities in which it operates.