The Strange Attempts At Stealing Free Healthcare

By Mike Devlin on Friday, March 7, 2014
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“Good morning everybody, this is a robbery. Now if nobody loses their head, nobody will lose their head.” —Thelma & Louise (1991)

In A Nutshell

In at least two separate instances, uninsured men desperate to receive the free healthcare afforded to American prisoners robbed banks. They each calmly requested a dollar, then waited patiently for police to arrive.

The Whole Bushel

Perhaps never in American history has the public been so keen on the health insurance debate as in the last few months with the disastrous rollout of Obamacare. Regardless of your stance on the issue, most people agree that some kind of change is necessary. Those who do maintain health insurance through their jobs typically pay enormous premiums. For the uninsured, life is a game of Russian roulette—even a minor medical emergency can mean financial ruin, homelessness, even death.

In 2011, a North Carolina man named Richard Verone was desperate for health care to treat a litany of woes including ruptured disks in his spine, a growth on his chest, and issues with his foot. The 59-year-old man, who was unemployed and had no insurance, devised a seemingly insane plan to get help. He walked into a bank and handed the teller a note. It read “This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar.” Verone took his dollar, then sat down and calmly waited for the police to arrive. He was hoping to receive a prison sentence for his crime, which would entitle him to nearly cost-free healthcare (in North Carolina, the prisoner co-pay is approximately $5). However, Verone only received the relatively minor charge of “larceny from a person,” which carries a short-term sentence.

It would be bizarre enough for this sort of thing to happen once, but the tragedy of the American healthcare system (or lack thereof) was brought to light once again in August 2013, when a homeless man named Timothy Alsip repeated the stunt in a bank in Portland, Oregon. Alsip, who had no criminal record, had shown signs of increasing desperation for help in the time leading up to his arrest, repeatedly calling 911 on himself with fake complaints.

Not surprisingly, the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing in America’s prisons, whose population of elderly inmates has more than doubled in recent years. To address these concerns, several states have begun making the oddly cruel move of offering parole to sickly, older prisoners, giving them their freedom instead of addressing their failing health.

Show Me The Proof

LA Times: $1 bank robbery doesn’t pay off for man who said he was desperate for healthcare
‘Affordable care’—Oregon man robs bank for $1 to be arrested and get free healthcare
Washington Post: State spending on prison health care is exploding. Here’s why.