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Props: Man Robs $1 From Bank To Get Health Care In Prison

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By Sally Kohn on June 21, 2011

Want to debate the need for health care reform in the United States?

You can focus on the highly speculative and inflammatory “findings” of a recent McKinsey study about what employers may do, down the road, when health care reform is implemented — or you can look at what Richard James Verone, an actual human being, actually did.

After more than 17 years working for Coca Cola, Verone was laid off three years ago. He’s had some part-time work since then, but nothing steady. Yet his medical concerns — a growth in his chest and two ruptured disks — have been steadily growing. So Verone, who lives in Gaston, North Carolina, walked into an RBC bank branch and handed the teller a note, explaining that he was armed and demanding $1. That’s right, one dollar. Verone then sat down on a couch and waited for police to arrive and arrest him.

He’s hoping for a three year sentence, just long enough so the 59-year-old will qualify for Social Security when he’s freed, and in the meantime, he can get health care in prison.

Republicans who want to cut spending on Medicare by making seniors pay more of the costs out of their own pockets should look at Mr. Verone and think twice. The GOP hurries to explain that current Medicare recipients won’t be affected by their slash-and-burn policies. But soon-to-be seniors like Verone? If Republicans privatize Medicare, when Verone turns 65 his out-of-pocket costs will more than double. Something tells me he’ll rob another bank when the time comes.

McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers are arguing that rising health care costs will continue to rise because of health-care reform. The truth is, health-care costs are rising because insurance company profits are rising — all the while, American health outcomes are plummeting. We’re literally paying more and more for worse and worse care. Yet, the GOP seems to have perpetual faith that insurance companies will put your health care needs above their corporate interests. Similarly, the GOP seems to think that if it wishes hard enough, pigs will fly. But wishing something doesn’t make it true.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Richard James Verone — who we can assume worked hard his entire life, was playing by the rules trying to get another job but just, simply, couldn’t make it — shouldn’t we give him the basic dignity of basic health insurance coverage paid for, in part, by tax dollars he helped pay for most of his life because…because why, exactly?

When Social Security and Medicare were originally created, Republicans attacked both as socialism — apparently because, God forbid, America was putting the needs of all its citizens ahead of the needs of corporate CEOs. Well, then, God bless America.

And God bless Richard James Verone for reminding us all that Republicans and McKinsey executives care more about the health of big-business profits than the health of actual people.

Sally Kohn is a community organizer and political commentator. She is the Founder and Chief Education Officer of the Movement Vision Lab. Read her full HV archive here. Follow her on Twitter.

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