Man Shouldn't Have to Rob a Bank to Get Health Care

Jeanne Sager

James VeroneJames Verone has to live with the fact that he robbed a bank in North Carolina and only asked for $1. But at least he gets to live. Robbery was the only way the 59-year-old man with no job and a litany of health problems saw to save himself. That's the America we live in today. An America where a man has to rob a bank to get himself some government-sponsored health care from the jail.

And yet, the health care debate has raged on in America for years, nay, decades. It's reached fever pitch when the health care reform law bill made its way through Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama last year, suggesting guys like Verone just be offered some, ahem, help with the growth in his chest, the two ruptured disks, and the problem with his left foot.

Now we're subject daily to the screeching sound of conservatives accusing Democrats of trying to ram a whole load of un-American BS down their throats. Making people watch out for their fellow man, why that smacks of socialism, they cry! And yet in Verone's own state of North Carolina, where 35.4 percent of the population (under age 65) is just like the bank robber himself -- living without health insurance -- the burden of covering health care costs for those folks already increases an individual premium for an insured person by about $500 a year, $1,400 a year for a family policy. Already, meaning based on figures from several years ago, pre-health care reform.

But when North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said she wanted to actually, gasp, accept "Obamacare" (or at least refused to sign on to a GOP challenge), she was called every dirty name in the book. Because people have refused to drop the party line and open their minds to another option. Because people can't seem to think about people.

Is it any wonder, in an America like this, that people have to go to such desperate measures to get help? Verone -- who lost his job in the economic downturn -- knew he was essentially manipulating the system by getting health care in jail, but he asked for just $1 from the teller. He didn't bring a gun. He didn't threaten anyone. He merely handed her a note, then said he was going to go sit in a chair and wait for the police. He acted like a person. He treated the bank teller like a person. He just wanted the government to do the same for him.

What he did was wrong, but what does that say about the ideology that put James Verone in this situation? Do you think this will start a trend?

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