Dispute Over Proposed Illinois Bill Requiring Unvaccinated Residents to Pay Medical Costs If Hospitalized for COVID-19

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

An Illinois Democratic lawmaker has proposed legislation requiring people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to pay for their own medical costs, including hospital bills, should they contract the virus.

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IL Rep proposes bill requiring residents to pay if hospitalized for COVID-19 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)Tasnim News Agency

Antivaxxers in Illinois and other places continue to refuse to get vaccinated. Some of their reasons may sound more reasonable while others sound less so. Some believe there is gross under-reporting of vaccine related adverse reactions and deaths, or that the death rates from the virus are extremely low. Others think that the vaccine is a poison, that it’s a scam since there’s no virus to be protected from or that the vaccines are a deadly experimental being used to design a gene altering bioweapon.

Many people around Illinois are upset over the antivaxxers refusals to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They fear that if there are enough people who don’t get vaccinated that the virus will never fully abate. There is some legitimacy to this idea.

Research has shown that those who are vaccinated contract the virus at far lower rates than those who don’t. Those who don’t contract the virus can’t spread it. There is also evidence that while the viral load for vaccinated individuals is similar to that of those who are unvaccinated, viral load decreases much quicker in those who are vaccinated. This means those who are vaccinated who contract the virus are contagious for a shorter period of time.

But antivaxxers aren’t the only ones who aren’t getting vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy can include a lot of different people who don’t get the vaccine for a variety of reasons. These include not feeling confident about your health care provider, not believing you really need one, inconvenience or just not getting around to it. These individuals aren’t usually against the vaccine, there are just obstacles in the way of them getting one or they have some ambiguous feelings about the vaccine.

Now in Illinois, legislation has been proposed by Democratic State Representative Jonathon Carroll that would require those who aren’t vaccinated and become hospitalized for COVID-19 to pay for their own medical care out of pocket. This would be the case even if they have health insurance, prohibiting from accessing their benefits to obtain treatment for the coronavirus.

HB 4259 would amend the Illinois Insurance Code. The bill states that, “A group or individual policy of accident and health insurance that is amended, delivered, issued, or renewed on or after January 1, 2023 shall provide 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.”

Carroll says that the bill would act as an incentive for residents to get vaccinated, and decrease the spread of the virus in Illinois.

There are currently no co-sponsors on the bill and it’s unclear if Democrats will support it. Republicans are already countering it, including Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie who believes the bill is akin to taking away Illinoisans health care.

Republican Representative Adam Niemerg also strongly opposes the bill and has introduced his own legislation. He claims his proposed bill is necessary to protect those in Illinois who aren’t vaccinated from discrimination fueled by their refusal to get the vaccine.

If the bill passed it would take effect in January 2023 and would almost certainly face a number of legal challenges.

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