According to a recent article by the Gaston Gazette, James Richard Verne decided to rob a bank in order to receive free medical care. My first thought when I read about this was, “who robs a bank in order to get medical care?”, but the question became a little more clear as the story unfolded.
On June 9th of this year, James Richard Verone walked into a random bank in Gaston, N.C., and handed the teller a note demanding $1 and medical attention. He then told the teller that he would sit down and wait for the police to show up.
Growing Medical Ailments
The purpose of him “robbing” the bank, was to get medical care. He actually has a part-time job as a convenience store clerk, but apparently doesn’t have medical insurance.
Here is what the article had to say about his work situation:
Verone worked for Coca-Cola for 17 years. He prided himself on keeping his nose to the grindstone. Don’t make enemies. Sell the product. Make your deliveries and stick to your schedule.
When his career as a cola delivery man ended some three years ago, Verone was knocked out of his comfort zone.
He hopped back in the saddle driving a truck. But that employment didn’t have near the longevity, and Verone found himself jobless.
He lived off of savings and sought a part-time job.
Many people in this country work either full-time or part-time jobs with no (or inadequate) health insurance coverage, and do just fine. However, Mr. Verne had a host of ailments that made him want to take desperate action:
But the bending, standing and lifting were too much for him. The Gastonia man’s back ached; problems with his left foot caused him to limp. His knuckles swelled from arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome made daily tasks difficult.
Then he noticed a protrusion on his chest.
Strapped for cash, Verone looked into filing for disability. He applied for early Social Security.
The only thing Verone qualified for was food stamps. The extra money helped, but he felt desperate. He needed to get medical attention, and he refused to be a burden on his sister and brothers.
“The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept,” he said. “I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.”
Verone is 59 years old, and has a host of medical problems. The article doesn’t tell us what steps he took in order to get medical care, so we can’t say anything about injustice or unfair treatment by the “system”.
The Solution: Rob A Bank!
I am not sure how much time and energy he spent seeking more traditional avenues, but his actions show that he spent time planning this move!
He considered turning to a homeless shelter and seeking medical help through charitable organizations.
Then he had another idea: commit a crime and get set up with a place to stay, food and doctors.
…Verone sold and donated his furniture. He paid his last month’s rent and gave his notice.
He moved into the Hampton Inn for the last couple of days.
The article didn’t say why he only “considered” seeking medical help through charitable organizations, or free clinics. I know many people who don’t have insurance either due to being unemployed or part of the contingent workforce, but they still find ways to get medical treatment when they need it.
It can be easy to feel sorry for this guy – and in a way, I do – but, there seems to be a large part of this story that is missing. Maybe he could have simply gone into debt, trying to pay for treatment. Then his choices would have been to either pay off debt, or file for bankruptcy.
He could have shown the determination that the parents of Michael Bibbo (a young man who is suffering from Primary Lymphedema <–click to read his story and donate to the cause) are showing! His potentially life-saving surgery will cost over $90,000 and is not covered by insurance. Instead of sending him off to jail, they are trying to raise money, and are even willing to borrow whatever they don’t raise, in order to save his life!
From The Mouth Of Verone
To make sure that his intentions were clear, Verone mailed out a letter to The Gazette on the day that he robbed the bank (but before he committed the crime). He even listed his return address as the Gaston County Jail:
“When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me. This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar,” he wrote. “I am of sound mind but not so much sound body.”
“I knew that a felony would not hurt me. I cannot work anymore,” he said. “That felony is going to hurt my reputation.”
Unless I were to receive more information – showing that he was denied medical care because he didn’t have insurance – I am compelled to believe that he didn’t explore all of his options!
He doesn’t feel bad about his decision, and says that he will do it again if his sentence isn’t severe enough for his liking!
photo by Ben Goff/The Gazette
What Do You Think?
I have a habit of being hard on people in situations such as these. Besides considering how ridiculous and wrong this is, I can’t get passed the fact that (based on the information we have) it doesn’t seem as if he exhausted all of his options. I know (and have known) plenty of people who didn’t have health insurance, but still managed to get health care when needed – even if that meant incurring debt!
So, I want to hear what you all have to say about this story.
- Based on the information that we are given in the article and his letter, do you think that he made the right decision?
- Would you be willing to go into extreme debt in order to seek medical help?
- Would you be willing to go to jail in order to get medical care?
- Considering the fact that he wasn’t facing a life or death situation, if you were in his position, what would you have done?