Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going To Jail For Healthcare

It is a sad commentary in our society that millions of Americans must go to jail or the military to get adequate health care.  Here is to the Potemkin village that kills over 45,000 Americans every year for not being economically viable.

Man robs bank to get medical care in jail

Some people who need medical care but can't afford it go to the emergency room. Others just hope they'll get better. James Richard Verone robbed a bank.

Earlier this month, Verone (pictured), a 59-year-old convenience store clerk, walked into a Gaston, N.C., bank and handed the cashier a note demanding $1 and medical attention. Then he waited calmly for police to show up.

He's now in jail and has an appointment with a doctor this week.

Verone's problems started when he lost the job he'd held for 17 years as a Coca Cola deliveryman, amid the economic downturn. He found new work driving a truck, but it didn't last. Eventually, he took a part-time position at the convenience store.

But Verone's body wasn't up to it. The bending and lifting made his back ache. He had problems with his left foot, making him limp. He also suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.

Then he noticed a protrusion on his chest. "The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept," Verone told the Gaston Gazette. "I kind of hit a brick wall with everything."

Verone knew he needed help--and he didn't want to be a burden on his sister and brothers. He applied for food stamps, but they weren't enough either.

So he hatched a plan. On June 9, he woke up, showered, ironed his shirt. He mailed a letter to the Gazette, listing the return address as the Gaston County Jail.

"When you receive this a bank robbery will have been committed by me," Verone wrote in the letter. "This robbery is being committed by me for one dollar. I am of sound mind but not so much sound body."

Then Verone hailed a cab to take him to the RBC Bank. Inside, he handed the teller his $1 robbery demand.
"I didn't have any fears," said Verone. "I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police."

The teller was so frightened that she had to be taken to the hospital to be checked out. Verone, meanwhile, was taken to jail, just as he'd planned it.

Because he only asked for $1, Verone was charged with larceny, not bank robbery. But he said that if his punishment isn't severe enough, he plans to tell the judge that he'll do it again. His $100,000 bond has been reduced to $2,000, but he says he doesn't plan to pay it.

In jail, Verone said he skips dinner to avoid too much contact with the other inmates. He's already seen some nurses and is scheduled to see a doctor on Friday. He said he's hoping to receive back and foot surgery, and get the protrusion on his chest treated. Then he plans to spend a few years in jail, before getting out in time to collect Social Security and move to the beach.

Verone also presented the view that if the United States had a health-care system which offered people more government support, he wouldn't have had to make the choice he did.

"If you don't have your health you don't have anything," Verone said.

The Affordable Care Act, President Obama's health-care overhaul passed by Congress last year, was designed to make it easier for Americans in situations like Verone's to get health insurance. But most of its provisions don't go into effect until 2014.

As it is, Verone said he thinks he chose the best of a bunch of bad options. "I picked jail."


We sometimes forget the victims of the crime that is our private health insurance-dominated system.  Here is another.  Think of this the next time Rick Santorum tells you our government employees were fighting the Germans to give you this.

Uninsured man's self-treatment for toothache hastens death

by Eve Samples
It began with a painful toothache.

But Mark Erdman was not one to slow down, so he didn't.

The 49-year-old Palm City resident kept working, kept hitting the gym every morning at 5.

Without health insurance, he delayed going to the dentist for as long as he could. Over-the-counter acetaminophen and ibuprofen helped him endure the pain.

Erdman had done well during the boom years as a self-employed gutter and insulation contractor, but his business did not survive the construction bust. Private health insurance was unaffordable for his family of four, even after he landed a new sales job.

"We were making six figures and had money in the bank, insurance and everything — and we just lost it all. Lost it all," said his wife, Renee Erdman.

That was bearable because she still had him, her husband of 19 years.

He was the life of the party, the father of her two children; the Pop Warner football coach and the guy who would change a stranger's tire on the side of the road.

Now, she has lost Mark, too.

The Tylenol and ibuprofen he had been taking for his toothache contributed to fatal damage to his liver and kidneys, Renee said doctors told her. At one point, he took eight over-the counter pills in a single day. He knew it was more than the recommended dose, but he never expected it to take his life.

Mark died last Thursday at Florida Hospital in Orlando, where he had been transferred with hopes of receiving a liver transplant.
"It's so sick. It's like he was unknowingly killing himself," Renee said Monday. "And should you find yourself without insurance, forget it."

Mark was initially admitted at Martin Memorial Medical Center, which does not perform organ transplants. A hospital representative in Orlando told Renee a liver transplant would cost $195,000, with 50 percent of that to be paid up front, as she recalls it.

"I just sat there and said, 'I don't have that kind of money laying around,' " she remembered.

Last week, Mark got Medicaid coverage after Renee called the offices of U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Mark suffered damage to his brain before a transplant became possible.

"We had to take him off of life support," Renee said, her voice breaking. "It's just, who knows about this? Most people I talk to, they don't know this will shut your body down. Mark didn't know."

Acetaminophen can cause serious, sometimes fatal, liver damage if taken in higher-than-recommended doses, according to a consumer update from the Food and Drug Administration. Even at the recommended dose, people who have three or more drinks a day are at greater risk of liver damage, the FDA warns.

Renee wanted to share Mark's story as a cautionary tale.

"Maybe this doesn't have to happen to somebody else," she said.

Mark was always going out of his way to help other people. When he was running his own business, he would drive to Boynton Beach every morning to pick up an employee who did not have his own car, Renee said.

"Everything he did, he did it 100 percent," said Billy Baker, their son Tristan's basketball coach.

Now, family and friends are trying to help Renee, a stay-at-home mom to 9-year-old Kara and 15-year-old Tristan.

An account has been opened at First People's Bank. Contributions can be made at the bank to The Mark Erdman Family Benefit Irrevocable Trust or sent care of the Law Offices of Marc S. Teplitz, 73 SW Flagler Ave., Stuart 34994.

"He was a very positive man, and a very loving man and a giving man," Renee said.


This is what our country reduces its own citizens to.  Meanwhile, bankrolled teabaggers tell us that being able to choose your doctor or having insurance is 'all about freedom.'  Of course, that is on the condition you can afford it.  If not, then you deserve to die.  Sounds harsh?  Here are the teabaggers responding to a man with Alzheimer's appealing for health insurance.

Life in these United States.  Sometimes I wonder if this is what it was like before they had universal healthcare in the rest of the industrialized world?  I do not recall reading about the Germans acting like this when they received their universal health coverage, over a hundred years ago, or the British in 1948, or the Canadians in 1984.  Why is it that the slightest reform in this country, be anti-slavery, civil rights, even public education, causes so many of our people to respond with such violence and stupidity?  

Meanwhile, if you do not have health insurance and need it, and you are not too poor for Medicaid or old enough for Medicare, our jails and military await you.

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