Unvaccinated Illinois residents to pay own COVID-19 hospital bill, state lawmaker proposes

A new proposed bill from an Illinois state leader would require residents, who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, to pay for their own bills if they’re hospitalized with the virus. 

Democratic State Rep. Jonathan Carroll’s bill states "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."

The proposed bill would apply to "a group or individual policy of accident and health insurance that is amended, delivered, issued, or renewed on or after January 1, 2023."

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"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 told the Chicago Sun-Times.

His proposal is already facing backlash. Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, said in a brief statement to the outlet that he opposes the proposed measure, saying it’s "taking health care away from Illinoisans."

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly 1.9 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. More than 26,000 people in the state have died. More than 500 COVID-19 patients are occupying 3,037 staffed ICU Beds, according to the department.

The department said nearly 9 million residents, over the age of 5, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 74.1% of the demographic. 

Nationwide, cases are rising once again, and world health leaders are concerned that the omicron variant could fuel a surge. Much remains unknown about omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it can thwart vaccines and whether it makes people as sick as the original strain.

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More than 6,600 new hospital admissions are being reported daily, according to tracking data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. have dropped by about half since the delta peak in August and September, but at more than 86,000 new infections per day, the numbers are still high, especially heading into the holidays, when people travel and gather with family.

However, U.S. health officials said Sunday early indications suggest the omicron variant may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations.

"Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it," Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s "State of the Union." "But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta."

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But delta remains the dominant variant, making up more than 99% of cases and driving a surge of hospitalizations in the north. National Guard teams have been sent to help overwhelmed hospitals in western New York, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order requiring any hospitals facing limited patient capacity to reduce scheduled procedures that are not urgent.

U.S. officials continued urging people to get vaccinated and to receive booster shots, as well as take precautions such as wearing masks when among strangers indoors, saying anything that helps protect against delta will also help protect against other variants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.