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Amid violent threats, lawmaker ditches bill to make unvaxxed pay hospital bills

Intensive Care Unit nurse monitors patients in the ICU ward at Roseland Community Hospital on December 14, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois.
Enlarge / Intensive Care Unit nurse monitors patients in the ICU ward at Roseland Community Hospital on December 14, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois.

Illinois Representative Jonathan Carroll is scrapping his proposed legislation to make willfully unvaccinated people pay COVID-19 hospital bills out of pocket after he received violent threats that also targeted his family, staff and synagogue.

The Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook introduced legislation earlier this week that would have amended the state’s codes for health and accident insurance. The proposed bill aimed to prevent insurance policies from covering COVID-19 hospital bills for people who choose to remain unvaccinated without a medical reason.

The bill was quickly politically divisive—and legally dubious. Federal law prevents health insurance providers from denying or reducing coverage based on a change in a person’s health status, including a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Still, Carroll defended the law, saying that the one-paragraph piece of legislation was simply a “starting point.”

“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 Sun-Times earlier this week.

But in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Carroll announced that “due to the unintended divisive nature” of the bill, he has “decided not to pursue” it further.

The statement went on:

Since taking office, I’ve always tried to have civil discourse with those who’ve disagreed with me. However, violent threats made against me, my family, and my staff are reprehensible. I hope we can return to a more positive discourse on public health, especially when it comes to this pandemic that has tired us all.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Carroll elaborated on the threats, saying they came from “a bunch” of people and included racial slurs and mentions of his wife and children. Someone also sent a note to Carroll’s rabbi, threatening the synagogue.

“This is ridiculous,” Carroll told the Sun-Times. “We just can’t have a reasonable conversation anymore… I’ve heard from reasonable people that do disagree with my bill—and I appreciate them being reasonable and I appreciate them making their point—but if you want to just go the route of calling people names and calling people racial slurs and threatening them and things like that, it’s impossible to have conversations at that point.”

The offices of both Illinois Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch condemned the violent threats.

“Threats of violence or death on anyone have no place in politics or our society,” a spokesperson for Welch said. “The Speaker condemns this behavior regardless of political party and will continue to encourage civil, productive public discourse.”

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