The Strange Attempts At Stealing Free Healthcare

“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.

  • Hillyard

    A national health care plan with a option of government coverage (in effect expanding Medicare to everyone that isn’t covered/can’t afford coverage) is sorely need in the US. Obamacare, while better than nothing, fails due to the fact that instead of offering incentives it penalizes those that don’t comply. People that have a good plan that they are happy with, should be able to keep it, others should be allowed to sign on to Medicare. This would require an increase in the FICA tax paid by employers and worker but would save money in long run.

    • Atlas

      Exactly, I completely agree. People who can’t afford healthcare deserve to be covered, but those who are perfectly happy with their plans should be allowed to keep them. Obamacare needs lots of amending.

      • lbatfish

        Any plan that meets minimum standards for coverage — meaning that when it’s needed, it will actually cover more than a small fraction of the cost — can, in fact, be “kept”.

        UNLESS, of course, the insurance company doesn’t want to offer improved coverage for the same price. Which is an action that they, as profit-making entities, have a right to do.

        Prior to the ACA, there were a lot of people who’d THOUGHT they had adequate coverage, and were then horrified when they discovered what their “coverage” didn’t cover. And because most people had never had the misfortune of needing high-expense care, they were quite happy to have the smaller premiums that their “old plan” cost. However, too many of those “bargain” plans were too much like in the pic below — offering the illusion that something is real when in fact, it isn’t.

        [Please excuse my recycling of this pic from a few days ago . . . but it’s still the best one of its kind.] 🙂

        • Atlas

          Very true, the passing of the ACA (among other things) made my father realize how mediocre his plan was. His was, like you said, a bargain plan. Healthcare is a right everyone deserves, I just wish there was an easier way to introduce socialized care, and that the rollout wasn’t so botched. I, however, believe that it is just one of those initiatives that requires lots and lots of fine-tuning. You know a lot more than I do on the subject (I’m only 17, I don’t have to pay yet ;)). It’s overall a very positive initiative and good for our country, some people are affected negatively and I don’t think that can be avoided, but in the end I still support the new system. This might not be a very coherent reply, and I kind of feel like I’m just rambling on, so I’ll end it here :).

          • lbatfish

            You do ramble well, however. 🙂

            Yeah, I died a little when the “public option” got tossed overboard — just the idea of private insurance being the ONLY option for most people. But who knows . . . if all of the people who want something better PLUS all the people who’d prefer ANYTHING that isn’t connected to Obama could pool their votes . . . maybe something better could be the result?

          • Atlas

            Haha thanks, and hey, who knows? I wonder what’s going to happen with Social Security, surely they can’t privatize it……..although I think they might try.

          • lbatfish

            Oh, they tried, all right — that’s was Bush’s big goal shortly he won his second term. But unfortunately for him, when he looked around behind him, the parade following him wasn’t nearly as big as what he’d been hoping for, and the idea just sputtered for awhile and then died.

            Four years later — when the financial $hit hit the fan in 2008 and many retired people lost most or all of their other investments — a lot of them were wondering what it would be have been like it they’d hadn’t even had Social Security to fall back on. So that scare may keep the “privatize social security” hounds from baying at the door for a few more years. I hope.

          • Atlas

            I hope so too. I honestly don’t believe they ever will, sure they will continue to try, but like you stated, there are far to many opponents and not enough support.

    • ScepticSid

      The total Health Care bill in the US averages out to $8,362 per person, of that the Government spends $4,437 per person which means that it spends more on limited health care than European countries spend on universal health with the exception of Luxembourg, Monaco and Norway. Its not that US health care is any better than Europe as it ranked 16th in the WHO 2013 survey well below many universal health providing countries like France and Australia.The main problem is that almost every aspect of Medical treatment in the US costs many times what it would anywhere else. A night in hospital in Switzerland costs $690 which is about the same as a five star hotel. In the US its $3949 or more than three times the cost of a penthouse suite at the Waldorf Astoria NY.

      • Hillyard

        Hospitals that don’t have to worry about not being paid can charge less. When the hospital has to pay doctors and other staff and the patients don’t or can’t pay their bill the just to stay afloat they charge more for everything. German doctors have their salary set by the government, while they still do good, they make less than doctors in the US, the hospital doesn’t have to worry about unpaid bills because the govt. health insurance or private insurance will usually cover everything. The needs more than just universal health care, it needs major reform in how doctors, nurses, hospitals are compensated for their work. Then perhaps the $20 band-aids will be a thing of the past.

        • lbatfish

          Good comment AND good link!

        • inconspicuous detective

          exactly!!! you’re on friggin’ fire today hillyard.

      • lbatfish

        My “deluxe” hospital room in the Philippines cost me only $40-something a day (and included TV with cable). Before it became available, it was about half that for a shared room (smaller and with no TV). And before that became available, I was in a corridor for a night or two, and that cost about $8/day. The doctors were all quite affordable except for the surgery itself, and even that was still only a fraction of U.S. cost.

        The main medical expense that wasn’t considerably lower was the meds, though I suppose at a U.S. hospital (rather than a Walmart pharmacy), they would have been jacked way up, too. Even so, though, my cost for meds over the next few months after release was higher than the cost of my weekly followups with my surgeon and lower-abdomen specialist.

    • lbatfish

      I’d agree that a “Medicare-for-all” approach would have been much better. However, the opinion of Obama and most of the ranking Dems at that time was that anything more “socialistic” than what we ended up with just wasn’t going to pass. Even with the “public option” being tossed out and other concessions having been made, there were no spare votes in the Senate (for breaking the GOP filibuster threshhold), and some of those Dem votes were awfully squishy.

      I’d also guess that the replacement of the ACA with something more ambitious is about zero for at least another two years. But with a change in the White House, Senate, and the house . . . maybe someday, something more like Vermont’s plan may be possible. Wouldn’t it be cool if their “experiment” ends up doing for healthcare what Colorado and Washington’s experiment is starting to do for weed?

    • inconspicuous detective

      actually man, the ACA is much worse than nothing. if we did nothing, people would still find treatment from doctors who couldn’t stand to see people die free of charge. obamacare tricks everyone into thinking that it works but in reality sucks the money out of everyone.

      agree with your statement. expanded medicare to all is exactly what should be done.

      • lbatfish

        “people would still find treatment from doctors who couldn’t stand to see people die free of charge.”

        Hmmm . . . you see that happen a lot in your own experience, you say? Do the docs also routinely agree to pay the other costs for treatment out-of-pocket as well?

        But I would agree 100% with you about Medicare-for-All. Now we just need to get it through Congress . . . .

        • inconspicuous detective

          in the event that our medical system was literally nonexistent i’m confident people who could would yea. (revolution that would follow a complete collapse of existing healthcare notwithstanding).

          • lbatfish

            Okay, agreed with that. But I’m hoping that we won’t need societal/medical meltdown in order to get our medical needs taken care of. 🙂

          • inconspicuous detective

            me too….but then again a collapse of the healthcare system might be on the way. who knows?

  • Holly Vavra

    Obama care has totally failed me. I am a widowed mom, with Rheumatoid diseases that cripple me. But because my father left me a small investment account, I can’t seem to get any help. Not until I am back to being completely broke again.

    • lbatfish

      Could you please provide some additional detail about how it has “failed you”? Specifically about what it would have cost before Obamacare vs. afterwards.

      • CSisonweb

        Maybe because gingers are the master race? Why don’t you take someones elses feelings above your own before insulting them or commandeering their reindeer for once in your life. Hitler was a good guy.

  • the big un

    This article is USA in a nutshell people committing crime to be treated for an illness and government turfing out known criminals onto the public rather than pay to treat them

    • lbatfish

      But as long as the 1% don’t lose their exemptions and their same-as-$400,000 top tax rates, so what if a few more criminals are walking around? That’s what gated communities and security companies are all about — protection for those that work hard enough to pay for it.

  • Eduard Korhonen

    It baffles me why America has never offered universal free healthcare much like our National Health Service. No hospital or doctor fees and a flat minimal charge for medication (currently about £8 per item), assuming you don’t qualify for free medication.