Saw it coming. No, seriously, I called this one a few years ago. And you (if you knew me back then) probably laughed at me.
Let’s talk about my favorite thing in the world: incentives. An increasing number of Americans are uninsured and unemployed. Emergency rooms provide care, but aren’t very reliable (and aren’t set up for treating anything that requires more than a visit or two–long term care simply isn’t an option). We do have a few free health insurance programs for people without jobs, but most of them come with an age minimum or maximum. With one notable exception: prison. Prisoners get free healthcare, regardless of employment status, age, or anything else.
So what would you do if you have cancer, no job, and no money? I’d argue that a sane, rational person would commit a crime. And get caught. On purpose.
Meet James Verone. He has a limp foot, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and a mysterious protrusion on his chest that was causing him extreme pain. So he robbed a bank. He stole one dollar, and calmly sat in the corner waiting for the police to come and arrest him. It’s not technically bank robbery (since the dollar amount is so low), so Verone, who has a doctor’s appointment this Friday, won’t be in jail for too long. His plan is to wait it out in prison with the free medical care until he qualifies for Social Security and Medicare.
In case you were wondering, yes, it’s WAY more expensive to keep someone in prison than to just give them free healthcare on the outside.
Now, there aren’t a ton of James Verones out there. But there are enough people who are evaluating the risks and rewards associated with committing all sorts of crimes. If everyone had free healthcare, how many crimes would that prevent? (Seriously, I’m asking, someone go do a study and come up with some estimates.)
I’m not trying to espouse one policy or another here. This isn’t a political statement (or at least not one supporting a particular agenda). All I’m saying is that James Verone robbed a bank for the free healthcare, that something isn’t quite right with this situation…and that I told you so.