America’s Uninsured May Be Healthier Behind Bars

by Shadra Bruce

Did you read about the guy who robbed a bank so he could go to jail and get the medical care he needed? The story was covered by Diane Turbyfill of the Gaston Gazette, and every time I read about James Richard Verone, I have a hard time not crying.

What really gets me is that somebody had to do this here, in America. If this guy lived in Canada (or nearly any other truly civilized country), his medical needs would be taken care of without him having to commit a crime and go to jail to see a doctor.

The robbery was planned carefully – the man only took a dollar; enough to get arrested, but not enough to make the act a felony. He didn’t hurt anyone or carry a weapon or do anything else that would cost him too much freedom.

No, this guy did a cost-benefit analysis and decided a bit of time in jail with free medical care was less expensive than trying to pay for the care he needed. And it worked – he is in jail, has been seen by a nurse already, and is scheduled to see a doctor.

I don’t necessarily condone what this man did, but there’s a little part of me that’s saying, “Right on!” because deep down inside, I’m mad as hell that we don’t all have the health insurance we need, that health insurance is still a for-profit endeavor in this country, and that health is a benefit for the wealthy – and the lucky – only.

I wonder how long our Congress would put up with the health care system the rest of us live with if we stripped them of their precious health plan?

You see, I’m one of those people who falls through the cracks. I actively contribute to the economy, working full time, paying my ridiculously high taxes and buying locally when I can afford to.  But I’m self-employed. At last check, the cost of insuring my family would be $700-950 per month. That’s more than I can afford, but getting a corporate job with benefits wouldn’t pay as much as I can earn from home, especially when you add in commuting, care for our disabled child, and other associated costs of working outside the home.

Every time I read about Verone, I think of my dad, who is ready to retire but scared to because he doesn’t think he can afford the medical care. My dad has worked almost 45 years, 39 of it for the same company. That’s almost twice as long as any military veteran has to work to receive full medical benefits and about 30 years longer than any Congressman has to work to be pampered for life.

Right now, people in jail have access to better healthcare than most. (Apparently, the doctors think it’s a pretty good deal too). How much longer must hard-working American’s be denied at least minimal healthcare at an affordable cost, before more of us become as creative as the gentleman from North Carolina?  Unless the healthcare playing field is leveled relatively soon, I’m thinking Verone’s health plan might just catch on.

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