Letter to the Editor: Proposed vaccine legislation for Illinois was cruel and divisive

As published in the Rockford Register-Star

House Bill 4259, legislation filed by Representative Jonathan Carroll on December 6, sought to amend the Illinois Insurance Code and essentially require that a group or individual health insurance policy not cover an individual who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and chooses not to be vaccinated.  Under this legislative proposal, this individual would need to pay for health care expenses out-of-pocket if the person becomes hospitalized because of COVID-19 symptoms.

While likely a violation of federal law, the bill is needlessly cruel and divisive, and I am happy that the representative saw fit to drop the proposal days later.  Why propose the legislation in the first place?  Representative Carroll cited frustration and believes if someone were to “…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,” he cited to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Under his logic, we should eliminate insurance for many.

Should state law allow persons with sexually transmitted diseases to be denied insurance coverage and be responsible out-of-pocket for all health care treatment because of their choices? 

Should obese individuals who suffer a heart attack or experience other cardiac symptoms be denied insurance coverage and held responsible for all health expenses because they are presumed to engage in unhealthy lifestyle choices such as overeating and lack of exercise?

Maybe we should even eliminate insurance for those who leave their house too much or drive too many miles since their risk is higher. 

I have heard from hundreds of concerned constituents in my district deeply troubled by the implications of legislation that seek to politicize healthcare, eliminate patient rights and the affordability of healthcare, and set dangerous precedents.  Legislation like this would stigmatize people and deny insurance coverage for no reason. 

We can add this idea to the list of poor ideas that have been instituted by politicians around the world: 1) Lockdowns have been proven to be ineffective against viruses; 2) We are the only state in the Midwest with a state-wide mask mandate, but our Governor says it’s to keep us safe (the numbers and science say we are not doing any better than other states; 3) Illinois kept big box stores open while it forced the shutdown of small retailers; and 4) The Governor even declared more than 2 people on a boat was dangerous outdoors last year.  The list of bad policies can be exhausting.

As elected officials in the Illinois General Assembly, we should never file legislation to take punitive action against Illinois residents who suffer from any illness or disease by denying them insurance coverage for treatment. Such a policy would be profoundly inhumane and contrary to our values as a society.

Joe Sosnowski is state representative for the 69th District of Illinois, which includes portions of Winnebago and Boone Counties.