On January 3 2022, an Imgur account shared the following meme about a bill in the state of Illinois that would force unvaccinated individuals pay out of pocket for COVID-related hospital stays:
Text at the top and bottom of the meme read:
Illinois introduces a bill to force unvaccinated residents to pay out of pocket for their hospital treatment if they catch COVID, saying that they “must assume the risk” and “take responsibility” for their carelessness.
I AM 100% FOR THIS
The meme proved popular on Imgur, but it was not accompanied by any contextual information — titled simply “Yes!” Reverse image searches largely turned up the base stock image of Chicago, but also revealed a variation shared to Tumblr on December 10 2021.
That post appeared to consist of a screenshot of a post shared by the Facebook page “The Other 98%” on December 8 2021:
An initial search returned news articles about a proposed bill in Illinois matching the claims in the memes. A December 6 2021 WCIA article covered it:
A new measure filed Monday [December 6 2021] in the Illinois legislature would force unvaccinated patients to pay their own medical expenses if they become hospitalized with COVID-19.
State representative Jonathan Carroll, a Northbrook Democrat, sponsored the proposal to prompt people to consider the costs of their consequences to the greater health care system.
“The vaccine is proven to be the one thing that is stopping the severity of COVID-19, and we are seeing more variants popping up,” Carroll said in a [December 6 2021] morning interview. “The experts are telling us, ‘This is now becoming a disease of the unvaccinated.’ The people that are choosing to get vaccinated are not the ones that are clogging up the healthcare system, it’s the ones that aren’t.”
According to one of the largest hospital groups operating in Illinois, the average unvaccinated person hospitalized with COVID-19 stays hospitalized three times longer than a vaccinated patient. In a Facebook post, HSHS St. John’s Hospital said the overwhelming majority of patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across their 15 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin are unvaccinated.
On December 6 2021, the day Carroll introduced the proposal, Chicago-area NBC affiliate WMAQ reported:
An Illinois Democratic lawmaker has 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.
State Rep. Jonathon Carroll filed HB 4259 on [December 6 2021] 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.
Carroll says that the bill would serve 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.”
As indicated earlier, the meme was shared by “The Other 98%” on December 8 2021, two days after Carroll introduced the bill. On December 9 2021, WMAQ published “Illinois Rep. Pulls Bill Requiring Unvaccinated Residents to Pay For COVID Care, Says He Received Threats,” explaining that Carroll withdrew the proposed legislation, due in part to threats against his staff and family:
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 [December 6 2021] 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.
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.”
A January 2022 Imgur post lauding a proposed Illinois bill to require unvaccinated individuals to pay out of pocket for COVID-related treatment was accurate at the time it was created and shared on December 8 2021; Carroll had introduced a bill to that effect two days before. On December 9 2021, Carroll withdrew the bill, citing “violent” threats from members of the public. Although the initial iteration of was True, we’ve rated this page Decontextualized because the legislation was hastily withdrawn.