Going to Prison to Get Health Care?

The story about bank robber Richard James Verone caught our attention this week. The North Carolinian thought he had the perfect solution to his medical woes when he decided to rob a bank, get caught, and go to prison where he could get the health care he needs.

The story was all over the news as liberals decried how awful the U.S. system is because it forced this otherwise law-abiding citizen to turn to crime to get medical treatment.

But Verone is a perfect example of the citizens conservatives are trying to help. He is 59 years old, has health problems, no job, and virtually no income. We have been arguing for more than a decade that we should target financial help to Verone and others like him so they can get private coverage that is portable and that they can maintain over time. And we would support states with funding for high-risk pools to give those with health problems a place to get insurance.

Instead, ObamaCare will reengineer our entire health care system and likely sweep Verone into Medicaid — unarguably the worst health care program in the country.

Verone’s options are unlikely to be no better under Medicaid than before he robbed the bank. That’s because Medicaid pays doctors so little that few physicians can afford to see private patients, forcing many of them to get their care in the ER.

Which is exactly what Verone could have done before robbing the bank. Federal law requires any hospital that accepts federal payment through Medicare or Medicaid to treat any patient who presents needing medical care, whether they can pay or not. And federal funds flow to hospitals to at least partially reimburse them for this “uncompensated care.”

Verone says he has an undiagnosed growth in his chest, two ruptured back discs, and a problem with his foot. He lost his job driving a delivery truck for Coca-Cola several years ago because of his medical problems and has been unable to get work or health insurance since then.

Had ObamaCare done a better job of designing its high-risk pools, Verone would be a candidate for them because he clearly has pre-existing conditions. But the costs of health insurance in the pools are so high that only 12,000 people across the country — out of millions we were told needed them — have enrolled in the coverage.

Verone said he hopes he will get a sentence of at least three years so he can stay in jail until he qualifies for Social Security at age 62. Then he plans to move into a condominium on the beach — which he already has picked out — and enjoy life with his health problems taken care of.

But beware. California is a step ahead of this problem. Its prison system is in federal receivership because of overcrowding that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared inhumane. The state is looking to release prisoners, and the sick ones may be thrown out.

Last week, it released a man who had served less than four years of a 68-year sentence for violent robbery. The inmate, Craig Lemke, 48, received a “medical parole” because the board determined that he was “permanently medically incapacitated” and not a threat to society. The state hopes to save millions of dollars by releasing similar prisoners. (Lemke’s exact medical condition was not disclosed for privacy reasons.)

Prison is not the answer. ObamaCare is not the answer. The answer is targeted assistance to people who really need help, with states providing a functional safety net.

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McKinsey under fire: We wrote about McKinsey & Company’s latest employer survey for The Wall Street Journal, which found that a third to half of employers expect to drop or significantly change their employee health insurance programs as a result of ObamaCare.

The White House has gone into apoplexy, as I wrote for National Review on Wednesday, knowing that this blows to smithereens the solemn promise to the American people that “If you like your health insurance…”

The Journal weighed in with an editorial entitled “Shutting up McKinsey: The White House vilifies a company for reporting health-care reality.” A few excerpts:

The White House routinely tries to intimidate its health-care critics, but the campaign against McKinsey & Co. is something else. The management consultants attempted to find out how U.S. business will respond to the government restructuring of 17.3% of the economy, Democrats don’t like the results, and so McKinsey must pay with its reputation…

McKinsey’s study merely echoes what economist Doug Holz-Eakin has also been shouting from the rafters about ObamaCare’s impact on private coverage. Ditto for Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. Is that left-leaning outfit now a GOP mouthpiece too? McKinsey isn’t known for its partisan sympathies, and most top-drawer consulting firms deliberately avoid the political fray. Clients want intelligence, not controversy.

The White House method is nonetheless to assail even disinterested analysts as dishonest or motivated by bad faith, and the habit is especially pronounced against businesses that have something to lose. Think of the public trashing of the insurers WellPoint and Humana for accurately describing how costs will soar under the new entitlement, or the companies like AT&T and Verizon that ObamaCare forced to take huge writedowns last year.

The fact that the White House feels it must vilify businesses for telling the truth about ObamaCare shows just how destructive the law really is.


McKinsey met the criticism with the facts. It released the survey questions, methodology, and data, putting to rest questions about the objectivity. I’ve read the entire 206-page survey results that McKinsey released in response to White House demands. The survey was very responsibly conducted and not biased in the least, and the data are incredibly detailed and mined the options employers are considering.

The health overhaul law can’t work, and there is no way that the White House is going to be able to fight back against the avalanche of facts that will continue to flow in its destructive wake.

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IPAB: And part of the ammunition to fight back is in this new paper we just released on IPAB — the rationing board that the president is counting on to rescue Medicare from fiscal calamity. You need to know what’s coming.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board epitomizes ObamaCare: unelected bureaucrats making sweeping decisions that impact hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending and millions of lives. IPAB must go, and ObamaCare must go.


Chairman Ryan: Choice and Competition Will Increase Quality, Decrease Costs in Health Care

In an exchange with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf admits the shortcomings of the CBO’s models on health care, resulting in analyses that do not account for choice and competition.
Watch now >>




Losing Your Coverage under ObamaCare

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 06/22/11

The White House is in apoplexy over a survey released two weeks ago by McKinsey & Company and has done everything it can to discredit the detailed survey of 1,300 employers, which showed a significant percentage of companies will drop health insurance after ObamaCare kicks in in 2014. ObamaCare supporters are desperately trying to convince us that employers will be more, not less, likely to offer health insurance under the new health-overhaul law. Democrats didn’t face the facts about the damage that ObamaCare would do before the legislation was passed, and they are refusing to accept the reality of its consequences now.

Read More »


CBO’s 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook
Douglas Elmendorf, CBO Director’s Blog, 06/22/11

The Impact of Systems Thinking and Business Strategy on Public Policy
Bartley J. Madden, Social Science Research Network, 06/20/11

Employer Survey on US Healthcare Reform: Details regarding the survey methodology
McKinsey & Company, 06/20/11

The Accountable Care Fiasco
The Wall Street Journal, 06/19/11

Program Offering Waivers for Health Law Is Ending
Robert Pear, The New York Times, 06/17/11

A Twist in Obama’s Health Care Law
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, RealClearPolitics, 06/21/11

Health Reform Challenges Employers’ Ability to Control Costs, Maintain Robust Plans, Survey Shows
Lockton, 06/16/11

Will Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Survive Obamacare?
Sally C. Pipes, Forbes.com, 06/21/11

Death by Regulation
John Goodman, Health Policy Blog, 06/20/11

Federal Health Reform and Stock Market Returns of Health Insurers
John R. Graham, Pacific Research Institute, 06/15/11

Elder care goes high tech
Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, 06/17/11

US seeing continued progress on cancer
Julian Pecquet, The Hill: Healthwatch, 06/17/11

Man steals $1 to get prison healthcare
United Press International, 06/21/11


Ryan Plan Is Good Deal for Medicare Beneficiaries
Donald J. Palmisano, William G. Plested II & Daniel H. Johnson, Jr., The Daily Caller, 06/17/11

On the Cusp of Change: the healthcare preferences of low-income Californians
Langer Research Associates for Blue Shield of California Foundation, 06/11


The breast cancer patients TOO OLD to save: Thousands are being denied surgery by ‘ageist’ doctors
Sophie Borland, The Daily Mail, 06/16/11

Hundreds of operations face axe to save £55m Concern as operations face axe
Helen Puttick, The Herald, 06/13/11


Protect Inventors With Strong Patent Reform
Peter J. Pitts, The Washington Times, 06/14/11

Patent Reform and the Constitution
Merrill Matthews, Forbes: Right Directions, 06/20/11


Cash for Care?
The Cato Institute
Monday, June 27, 2011
Washington, DC

Health Care and Innovation in Japan
Hudson Institute
Monday, June 27, 2011
Washington, DC

What Should Be Done About Medicare?
National Center for Policy Analysis Briefing
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
B-354 Rayburn
Washington, DC
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Carolyn Needham at 202-220-3195 or Carolyn.Needham@ncpa.org.

Recognizing the Promise of Vaccines: Public Policy Must Adapt to New Innovations
American Enterprise Institute Briefing
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m
Washington, DC