Unvaccinated Illinoisans Would Pay COVID Hospital Bills Under New Proposals

Illinois residents who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and refuse to take it would have to pay for their treatment if they contract the virus under a proposed new bill.

"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,'" State Representative Jonathan Carroll told the Chicago Sun-Times this week.

Legislation filed at the Illinois House of Representatives on Monday proposed 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."

Such a bill would apply to any health insurance policies "amended, delivered, issued, or renewed on or after January 1, 2023."

The legislation has been criticized by Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, who likened it to "taking health care away from Illinoisans."

Some 2,760 inpatient beds across the state are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

That represents more than 9 percent of all 30,456 hospital beds in Illinois, 19,560 of which are occupied by people receiving treatment for non-COVID-19-related conditions. That leaves less than 18 percent of hospital beds free.

Some 543 of Illinois' 3,239 staffed intensive care unit (ICU) beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, and 918 are not currently occupied.

Around 58 percent of Illinois residents are fully vaccinated, while 65 percent have had at least one dose, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

"Illinois' 7-day rolling average for both cases and deaths are increasing, and over the past month, the daily number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has risen from about 1,300 people to more than 2,400," IDPH told ABC 7 on Friday.

The emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus has also triggered concerns of a potential impending spike in COVID-19 cases.

Carroll would need to overcome legal and political battles in order for the bill to be passed into law, and he has described some of his colleagues in the House of Representatives as being "very supportive" of the proposal.

"If someone obviously can't have a vaccine for health reasons, that's a completely different conversation," he said.

"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."

Child receiving a COVID-19 vaccine shot
A student receives a COVID-19 vaccine on November 12, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. 58.73% of people in the state are fully vaccinated against the virus, according to data from the state's department of public health. Scott Olson/Getty Images