Editorial; The unvaccinated and COVID-19's medical bills
Last Monday, state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Northbrook Democrat, filed legislation to force unvaccinated patients to pay for their own health care if they are treated for a COVID-19 infection.
"It's time to say, '(If) you 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,'" Carroll told the Chicago Sun-Times.
By Thursday, he thought better of it -- partly, he says, because of ugly threats he received; mainly, we hope, because he recognized the divisions it exacerbated.
He went to Twitter to announce that because of "the unintended divisive nature" of the bill, he was backing off the legislation.
"Based on feedback and further reflection," Carroll said, "we need to heal as a country and work together on common-sense solutions to put the pandemic behind us."
He added his hope that "we can return to a more positive discourse on public health, especially when it comes to this pandemic that has tired us all."
We do not countenance threats, nor is it clear what role they played in Carroll's decision to drop the bill. But kudos to him for reconsidering rather than doubling down on what clearly seems to have been a mistake.
We suspect Carroll's initial proposal was born of frustration with those who refuse to get vaccinated and thus add not just to the health care costs of the pandemic but to prolonging the pandemic itself.
We get that. We share the frustration. We live in a country affluent and powerful enough to have access to a vaccine that can rid us of this scourge and yet, because of politics, misinformation and hardheadedness, so many don't take advantage of such lifesaving advances.
A colleague told us the other day about relatives in the medical field who "are torn to bits by having to turn away patients with heart attacks and urgent care needs because every bed in their hospital, and in some cases every bed in their state, is filled with unvaccinated COVID patients."
One of that colleague's relatives is a physician who "had four COVID patients die just in this past week alone, all of them unvaccinated, and their beds were immediately filled with other unvaccinated patients."
All that said, we have an obligation as a society to treat people in need, even when they are threatened by their own bad choices.
Approaches such as the one Carroll proposed further divide the population. Should smokers pay for cancer treatments? Should sky divers pay to repair injuries they may incur? Should people who don't wear seat belts pay for emergency room care?
These are difficult and yes frustrating times. But our only real hope to work our way out of them is to work together.
We're glad Carroll dropped his bill.