James Verone is one of the many Americans who would beg to differ about how fantastic our health care system supposedly is. The North Carolina man was in the news recently because he robbed a bank of $1 in order to go to jail and get medical care. He couldn’t pay for his illnesses himself because he lost his job and didn’t have health insurance. As Mother Jones points out, keeping him in prison for one year will cost $23,000, not to mention the legal cost of defending his case. It would be cheaper to insure him and take care of his problems so he doesn’t end up in the emergency room for even costlier care, but good luck making that argument to Republicans. Most of them don’t believe everyone should be required to carry health insurance. But then we end up with people like Verone, who are costing taxpayers money because they don’t have insurance and do desperate things to get care.
We also end up with people like Kathy Myers, a woman from my region who last summer shot herself in the arm in order to get treatment for an agonizing pre-existing shoulder condition. She thought that the gunshot wound would force doctors to take care of the original injury, which she couldn’t get treatment for because she couldn’t afford it. “I just want to take the pain away,” she said. However, the gunshot didn’t do serious damage and the original injury went untreated.
Both of these cases made the national news because they were so extreme, but there are thousands of other people who do desperate things in order to get health care. Some go without food, some sell all of their belongings, some take second, third and fourth jobs — and even then sometimes it’s not enough. No one should lose their house because of a health problem that has an easy but expensive treatment option. That shouldn’t happen in supposedly the “greatest country in the world.” I talked with a woman this week whose daughter lived in Italy for six years. In that time, she never saw a single piece of paper related to her health care, let alone a bill. Everything was electronic; all of the costs were paid for. For that alone, I would support nominating Italy and countries like it for “greatest country in the world.”