A health-care worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to a student during a vaccination clinic in Wheeling, Ill., on Nov. 17. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Unvaccinated hospital patients in Illinois would have to pay their own coronavirus medical bills out of pocket, according to legislation proposed Monday by a Democratic state lawmaker.

Rep. Jonathan Carroll filed his bill amid the state’s struggle to contain covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“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 says.

The proposal from Carroll, who represents the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, is almost certain to face political opposition and legal concerns, as federal law prohibits insurers and employers from charging higher prices to patients with preexisting conditions. That also includes those diagnosed with and treated for covid-19, according to healthcare.gov.

But the Democratic lawmaker told The Washington Post that he was frustrated at seeing vaccination arguments playing out between people who are “trying to do the right thing” and those “choosing not to get vaccinated for whatever reason.”

“If you choose not to get the vaccine and end up catching covid and end up having any medical expenses, you are responsible for those costs,” Carroll, 47, said Tuesday. “No one is telling anyone what they have to do. What we’re saying is if you make that decision to not get vaccinated and you are hospitalized, that’s the decision you’re making, and there’s consequences to that. It’s a simple formula.”

Coronavirus infections and covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are increasing nationwide as the country inches toward 50 million reported coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. While there is concern and uncertainty about the omicron variant of the virus, public health experts nationwide are stressing that the overwhelming majority of the nation’s coronavirus cases are still caused by the highly transmissible delta variant, which has led to some of the worst spikes of the pandemic.

U.S. coronavirus cases approach 50 million

In Illinois, the state is averaging nearly 7,150 new infections a day and is one of six states to average at least 7,000 new cases daily in the past seven days, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. The state’s new-case average increased by 73 percent compared with last week, data shows.

Hospitalizations and deaths in Illinois are also up in the past seven days. More than 2,750 people in the state are hospitalized with the virus, including 563 in intensive care units.

Sixty-two percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated; the national rate is 60 percent.

More than 786,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S.

Carroll’s proposed legislation, which was an idea he said that grew out of a conversation with his wife, would amend Illinois’ insurance code. The change reflected in the two-page proposed bill would update insurance policies issued or renewed on or after January 2023. Some public figures and celebrities have called for unvaccinated people to be denied hospital treatment, but Carroll’s bill appears to be one of the first of its kind to call for those not immunized to pay for their hospital care if they come down with covid-19.

“We’re in a world where covid is going to be here for a bit, and those who aren’t doing their part are creating new variants and continuing to spread the disease,” he said. “We’ve tried so many different incentives and conversations to get people vaccinated, but people aren’t listening. And there is a potential consequence to that personal choice.”

Carroll acknowledged the uphill legal climb and political pushback the bill faces, but he stressed that the proposal was not mandating vaccination or denying health coverage. He pointed to recent changes in other states and among businesses as signs that action needs to be taken in Illinois. Nevada is the first state to impose an insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state employees, and Delta Air Lines has a similar monthly insurance surcharge for employees.

The bill already faces opposition from state Republicans. Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie told the Chicago-Sun Times that he opposed Carroll’s bill because he was against “taking health care away from Illinoisans.”

Carroll said it was “exceptionally ironic” that some conservatives who remain unvaccinated and Republicans opposing the bill have long opposed the Affordable Care Act.

“The people who complain about Obamacare are going to point to Obamacare as the reason why this bill can’t happen,” he told The Post, laughing. “They’re going to be citing the Affordable Care Act if it goes through the process and gets to a vote.”

He’s already faced blowback from critics in and out of his district who’ve used “some colorful language” to describe the bill, he said.

It’s unclear whether the bill could pass in its current form, and Carroll conceded that what he’s proposing is “going to evolve.” But he said that as covid-19 continues to be “the disease of the unvaccinated,” a greater political effort will be needed in Illinois, not only to help hospitals but also to send a message to those still refusing to be vaccinated.

“This vaccine argument is so polarizing. A lot of people who don’t live in my district seem to hate me right now,” he said. “But I’d like for us to get back to normal.”

Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman contributed to this report.

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Coronavirus: What you need to know

End of the public health emergency: The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for the coronavirus pandemic on May 11, just days after WHO said it would no longer classify the coronavirus pandemic as a public health emergency. Here’s what the end of the covid public health emergency means for you.

Tracking covid cases, deaths: Covid-19 was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States last year with covid deaths dropping 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world.

The latest on coronavirus boosters: The FDA cleared the way for people who are at least 65 or immune-compromised to receive a second updated booster shot for the coronavirus. Here’s who should get the second covid booster and when.

New covid variant: A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India. Here’s what you need to know about Arcturus.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

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