October 1, 2022

Proposal puts unvaccinated people on the hook for COVID-19 health care costs

Unvaccinated Illinoisans would have to pay for their health care expenses — including hospital bills — out of pocket if they contract COVID-19 under legislation filed Monday in the Illinois House.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll’s bill is likely to face legal challenges and political pushback, but the Northbrook Democrat downplayed those concerns, saying it all boils down to frustration between those who have “been following the science and … trying to do the right thing” and those who are “choosing not to get vaccinated, who are able to, for whatever they choose.”

“I think it’s time that we say ‘You choose not to get vaccinated, then you’re also going to assume the risk that if you do catch COVID, and you get sick, the responsibility is on you,’” Carroll said.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook.
Provided photo

Carroll’s legislation would amend the state’s insurance code so that “a person who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and chooses not to be vaccinated shall pay for health care expenses out-of-pocket if the person becomes hospitalized because of COVID-19 symptoms.”

That update would affect individual health or accident insurance policies issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2023.

“This is becoming a disease now of the unvaccinated,” Carroll said.

“If someone obviously can’t have a vaccine for health reasons, that’s a completely different conversation. But if you’re an able-bodied person able to get this vaccine and you’re choosing not to, then you’re putting us all at risk, and we’re seeing this as the variants continue to spread,” Carroll said.

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered in January at Norwegian American Hospital.

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered in January at Norwegian American Hospital.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

“We’ve tried everything we can do to educate the public on the vaccine. Again, the vaccine is working, and people are, for whatever reason, choosing not to get it. Now it’s to a point where … it shouldn’t be the responsibility of those of us that are.”

Passage of the bill would require overcoming legal and political hurdles.

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods said in a brief statement he opposes “taking health care away from Illinoisans.”

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a virtual news conference in March.

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a virtual news conference in March.
BlueRoomStream

And under federal law, insurance plans, such as those offered through the Affordable Care Act’s “Marketplace,” cover treatment for preexisting medical conditions and aren’t allowed to terminate coverage for changes in a person’s health status. That includes the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, according to healthcare.gov.

Asked about such problems, Carroll said there are legal challenges to every bill.

Carroll said some of his colleagues in the House are “very supportive” of the legislation but Monday’s bill is a “starting point — we’ll see where the conversations go.”

https://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/2021/12/6/22820611/coronavirus-health-care-expenses-unvaccinated-person-illinois