Bank robbery: The things some will do for health care

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Updated Jun 24, 2011

VeronePerhaps you’ve heard this story already — desperate for something he thinks is totally out of his financial range, man does something over-the-top, creating a national media circus along the way.

The latest variant comes from Gaston County in North Carolina in the form of a former beverage delivery driver feeling so much in need of medical care and not wanting to be a burden on extended family, he says, that he concocted and executed a scheme to rob a local bank — all for the free health care he’d get in prison. The 59-year-old, James Richard Verone (pictured), walked into an RBC bank in Gastonia, N.C., and handed the teller a note indicating he was robbing the bank and demanding just a single dollar.

Yes, docs are expensive, and yes, it may be a hit to some folks’ pride to take Medicaid or walk down to the free clinic, but buying a ticket for the prison train? At the same time, reading Gaston County Gazette reporter Diane Turbyfill’s account of her interviews with Verone, it’s hard not to see Verone as a rational man who’s carefully considered his alternatives — admittedly few, with no income and fast-dwindling savings — to growing physical problems that prevented his work, as a convenience store clerk, after he lost his driving job. His story has been featured in big media outlets subsequently around the country. Just Google his name to see what I’m talking about.

Media often pick up on the most extreme among us, of course, but the local reporting from Verone’s home city has been more robust, quick to point out Verone’s apparently unexplored medical-care options. A subsequent story in the Gaston Gazette noted a simple, alternative path to care right under the man’s nose in his home county, and similar programs of course exist in locales all around the country. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

Donna Grissom is a local reader who felt compelled to contact the newspaper, and Verone.

Grissom, executive director of HealthNet Gaston, checked records to see if the nonprofit had ever turned Verone away for assistance. He was not on the books.

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But Verone’s case did spark a reaction from Grissom. She went to the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office to distribute information about HealthNet Gaston.

Grissom said she wants Verone and everyone in need to know that there are programs available.

“There are resources,” she said. “You don’t have to go and rob a bank to get health care in Gaston County.”

HealthNet Gaston works to provide medical help for people who meet a list of criteria. But even if a person doesn’t qualify for that program, there are many others available throughout the county, said Grissom.

“If you don’t have any income you can still access a number of resources. It should not stop you,” she said. “I don’t want there to be a misconception that you need to go to those measures.”

Read the full story here.

Probing medical-certification regulations
And speaking of health, if you missed my own and colleague Max Kvidera’s appearance on Allen and Donna Smith’s Truth About Trucking Live program last night, it’s available in a recorded version via this link. At issue were some states’ monitoring of drivers’ sleep apnea treatment, the new proposed National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and more. It was a rousing discussion, overall, joined by driver Ed Webb, whom I wrote about in Truckers News’ June cover story and on the blog here just a couple days ago (with video), as well as several notable call-in participants, including Dr. Clinton Smith, who was involved in planning the NRCME, and a Florida owner-operator with his own apnea-monitoring quandary of sorts. Give it a listen.

Jason’s Law call-in day is here
Allen Smith commented on my previous post about the subject with numbers supporters can use to get to their congressman and/or senator to voice support today: “The industry has really pulled together on Jason’s Law, and it is a wonderful sight to see,” Smith wrote. “Now isn’t the time to sit back, however. Everyone who has stated and claimed support for H.R. 1803 and S.1187 will need to follow through with a phone call to Washington on June 23rd! Washington Switchboard: 202-224-3121 or 800-962-3524.”