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Man needing medical care robs a bank to get it in jail

Dominika Osmolska Psy.D.'s picture

It is shocking that some people living in a country with the largest economy in the world are reduced to robbing a bank in order to get urgent medical care. Yet this is precisely what James Verone, of Gastonia, N.C., did in order to take care of a growth on his chest, two ruptured disks, and some problems with his foot.

A person without health insurance can easily rack up $10,000 in a single visit to the emergency room. Treating complex problems such as growths and spine problems, both of which might involve surgical interventions, are simply out of the question for the un-insured. Surely there are tens of thousands of individuals in this country without health insurance, and surely many of them have unresolved health care issues such as Verone’s. What do they do to help themselves? Is there anything they CAN do?

Verone, at any rate, decided on a plan of action. That is how he said he came to the decision to rob the RBC bank on New Hope Road on Thursday, June 9.

He didn’t have a gun and he handed the teller a rather unusual note.

"The note said ‘This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar,’" Verone said.

Then he did the strangest thing of all.

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"I started to walk away from the teller, then I went back and said, 'I'll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the police," Verone said.

And that is what he did.

The teller called 911 and police arrived to arrest him.

Verone hopes for a three-year sentence, time he deems sufficient to resolve some of his pressing medical issues. Health care in prisons is notoriously substandard, so Verone’s action is doubly poignant in its desperation. The fact is that ANY quality health care is better than none when a person is faced with a debilitating condition which might prove to be life-threatening. How many of us could sit idly by while contemplating a potential cancerous growth on our bodies? Would we sleep well at night? Would we enjoy the routine of our days?

Yet this is what our health care system is asking anyone to take on if that individual happens to fall off the health insurance wagon. Not only are privately paid-for health plans completely unaffordable for any individual earning less than a king’s share, but let us not overlook the fact that once an individual loses his plan, by, say, becoming unemployed, he may find it impossible to find an insurance plan that will take him on because of pre-existing conditions.

And these days, just about anything counts as a pre-existing condition. Ever been pregnant? There’s a pre-existing condition. Had allergies? Check. A broken bone? Yep. All these and many more would cause many an insurance company to turn you down.

With James Verone’s state of health, his odds of getting the health care he needed were nil.

Unfortunately, Verone may have a problem with his plan because he only demanded one dollar in the bank robbery. Police charged him, not with bank robbery, but larceny from a person. He might not get as much time in the slammer as he was hoping for. Let’s hope it’s enough for the sake of his health.