An Illinois Democratic lawmaker who recently introduced legislation that would require individuals who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to pay for their own medical expenses, including hospital bills, if they contract the virus has pulled the legislation, citing "unintended" division and threats he received as reasons behind the decision.
State Rep. Jonathon Carroll had filed HB 4259 on Monday in Springfield. The legislation would impact those residents who choose not to receive COVID-19 vaccines, and would require them to cover medical costs associated with contracting the virus, even if they have health insurance.
In a statement to NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern, Carroll says that he has decided not to pursue the legislation.
"Due to the unintended divisive nature of HB 4259, I've decided not to pursue this legislation," he said. "Based on feedback and further reflection, we need to heal as a country and work together on common-sense solutions to put the pandemic behind us."
Carroll says that both he and members of his staff had received violent threats in the aftermath of the proposal.
"Violent threats made against me, my family and my staff are reprehensible," he said. "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."
Carroll's proposal sparked a heated debate on both sides of the political spectrum. While no Democrats had signed onto the bill as co-sponors, the bill had drawn some interest from those on the left. Some Republicans, meanwhile, had come out forcefully against the measure.
Rep. Adam Niemerg, who has introduced his own legislation that he says would protect unvaccinated Illinoisans from being discriminated against for refusing the vaccine.
“It gives folks freedom to make the decision for themselves,” he said. “The freedom to talk to their doctors and have the conversation on whether they want to or don’t want to take the COVID vaccine.”
Carroll argued that the bill would have served as an incentive to residents to get vaccinated, and would help curb the spread of the virus in Illinois.
“If you get life insurance and you’re a smoker, you pay a higher premium than those who don’t,” he said. “The insurance companies have things like this built-in already.
Other states have considered similar measures, including Nevada, which has implemented a surcharge for state workers, to the tune of $55 per month, if they are an unvaccinated employee enrolled in an insurance plan.
The bill would not have taken effect until Jan. 2023.