Violent threats prompt Illinois lawmaker to shelve plan to make unvaccinated pay health care costs

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll said Thursday he decided not to pursue the law because of the “unintended divisive nature” of the proposal, which led to threats against his family and even his synagogue.

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State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook

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After receiving “violent threats,” a state rep from suburban Cook County won’t pursue a proposal requiring unvaccinated Illinoisans to pay their health care expenses — including hospital bills — out of pocket if they contract COVID-19.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, said in a statement Thursday that he decided not to pursue the legislation he filed earlier in the week because of the “unintended divisive nature” of the proposal. He has since filed a motion with the clerk of the Illinois House to table the measure.

He added that based on feedback and further reflection on the legislation “we need to heal as a country and work together on commonsense solutions to put the pandemic behind us.”

“Since taking office, I’ve always tried to have civil discourse with those who’ve disagreed with me,” Carroll said. “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 Sun-Times, Carroll said the violent threats from a “bunch of different people” included death threats and racial slurs and mentioned Carroll’s wife and children. Someone even sent an email to Carroll’s rabbi, threatening the synagogue he attends. Carroll said he reported the threats to the Illinois State Police, who declined to comment.

Someone also published his home address on Twitter; Carroll reported that to the social media site and the information was removed.

“This is ridiculous,” Carroll said. “We just can’t have a reasonable conversation anymore, we can’t have conversations with people about these things. 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 like racial slurs, and threatening them and things like that, it’s impossible to have conversations at that point.”

A House spokeswoman said, to her knowledge, Carroll’s decision to table the legislation is the first time a COVID-19 related bill has been pulled for consideration.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said in a statement that “threats of violence or death on anyone have no place in politics or our society.

“The Speaker condemns this behavior regardless of political party and will continue to encourage civil, productive public discourse.”

A spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon also said in a statement that “death threats have no place in politics.

“President Harmon would encourage everyone to be respectful in debating issues,” the statement continued. “He would also encourage everyone to take advantage of the vaccines that are available.”

Carroll proposed amending the state’s insurance code so 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.”

That update would have targeted individual health or accident insurance policies issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2023.

Under federal law, insurance plans, such as those offered through the Affordable Care Act’s “Marketplace,” cover treatment for preexisting medical conditions and aren’t allowed to terminate coverage for changes in a person’s health status. That includes the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, according to healthcare.gov.

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