James Richard Verone delivered Coke products in North Carolina for 17 years before he was laid off in 2008. After that he was able to find work as a truck driver but was soon dropped from that job, too. When Verone was unable to find other employment that wasn’t punishing on his 59-year-old body, things went from bad to worse. His health began deteriorating rapidly, and he found a “protrusion” coming out of his chest. That’s when he’d had enough.
Two weeks ago Verone walked into a bank and robbed the place of $1. He then sat down and waited for the police to come. After applying for early Social Security and being denied, and struggling to stay healthy with no insurance, Verone decided that going to jail was the only way he could get the help he needed. “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept,” he told his local newspaper.
Consider Verone the latest casualty in America’s battle over health care reform. Even as conservatives try to roll back the expanded coverage provided by President Obama’s health care bill, that expansion isn’t enough to cover everyone. The result is poor people who get sick and can’t afford to get better, and who then become dangerously desperate. In a nation as rich as the United States, Verone’s story is a tragedy.
But it worked. Verone’s insane plan is already paying dividends: He’s had a few visits from nurses, and last Friday he was finally able to see a doctor. All it took was a felony.