The story of James Verone, who lost his health insurance when he lost his job with Coca Cola, epitomizes the dysfunction in our country’s health care system, until now. Health care reform would have given him access to insurance by 2014. He would have qualified for Medicare in 2017. But he can’t wait — he needs health care today. Because he has a growth on his chest today. And with no other way of getting a doctor to diagnose him and treat him, he decided his only chance was to get sent to prison, where health care is free.
But how would this lifelong law-abiding citizen find his way to prison?
James Verone … limped into a bank in Gastonia, N.C., this month and handed the teller a note, explaining that this was an unarmed robbery, but she’d better turn over $1 and call the cops. That, he figured, would be enough to get himself arrested and sent to prison for a few years, where he could take advantage of the free medical care.
Just to make sure that no one was confused about his intentions, Mr. Verone made sure to let the teller know that he would be sitting on a couch in the bank, waiting for the police. Before he set out for the bank that morning, he also mailed a letter explaining his scheme to a local newspaper, The Gaston Gazette.
“When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar,” the letter read. “I am of sound mind but not so much sound body.”
The next time you hear someone you know say that we should repeal health care reform, I hope you’ll share this blog post with that person.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH