Bipolar Bear And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable For Grownups by Kathleen Founds

As someone who has had the most frustrating experience with the United States’ health insurance system — my insurance company refused to pay for the $200+/month asthma medication my doctor prescribed because it can… also be used to treat COPD? Cigna is garbage — I found this book deeply relatable.

Theodore Bear is bipolar, and wants to figure out how to manage the condition. A friend tells him about medication, and he decides that that sounds like a good idea. But in order to get pills, he’ll have to get a job that pays him both money and health insurance, which requires that he put off getting treatment until he qualifies for that latter. Unsurprisingly, his mental state does not improve while he “proves” that he’s “worthy” of getting health insurance. Finally being able to see a psychiatrist and get the prescriptions he needs feels like a massive achievement because, frankly, it is.

And then he gets the medical bills. Theodore has to navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy in order to figure out why he owes so much money, even with insurance. The answer further aggravates his mental state, sending him into a spiral that finally lands him in debtor’s prison. Fortunately, he soon acquires a network of friends who rally with him to fight back against the oppressive system and attempt to make meaningful change for everyone, including poor Theodore himself.

Anyone who’s been at the mercy of the US’ byzantine for-profit health insurance system will find themselves nodding along grimly at the scenes depicted in this book. It is utterly bizarre that one of the richest countries in the world so stridently espouses the idea that healthcare should only go to people considered worthy, which for the most part means the capitalism-approved “productive” members of society and those lucky enough to be their dependents. Progressive politicians and their supporters are working to fix this injustice but the sheer number of empathy-deficient jerkfaces trying to stop us is equal parts bewildering and infuriating.

This graphic novel does a great job of initiating the uninformed as to the true cost of our broken system. It can be rather granola, but the depiction of Theodore’s highs and lows are outstandingly visceral. The illustrations are simple, seeming to rely on materials easily available to the average elementary schooler, but serve to underscore how basic the struggle for healthcare really is.

I’m hoping that this book eventually becomes a relic, a depiction of a terrible time long past. In the meantime, I hope it’s used to rally readers against the injustice of the current system, and motivate them to keep up the pressure on ensuring reform. Random aside: Kathleen was the name of my first teddy bear.

Also, hey, fellow US citizens, if you haven’t voted yet, you still have time today! Shoot, you even have time to research the issues before going to your polling places. Check your voter registration and polling information at Your vote can make a difference!

Bipolar Bear And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable For Grownups by Kathleen Founds was published November 1 2022 by Graphic Mundi and is available from all good booksellers, including

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  1. Even after many years away, I was so conditioned by the US system that when I got the bill for my co-pay for a hospital stay for serious appendicitis I couldn’t open the envelope. I had been in for twelve days, two stays in the ICU, quite a bit of medical attention. I had only been back to working full-time for about a year at that point, my partner was not working though her neurological condition had yet to be diagnosed. We were getting by, but only just.

    Would this bill, despite Germany’s generally good system, be beyond our means? I was too scared to check. Weeks went by. A reminder came, remained unopened. Not good adulting, I grant, but I imagined many zeroes in the sum that was due.

    Eventually, of course, there was a phone call. Was there a problem paying? No, um, I just, um, well, er ah um, and how much was it anyway?

    Reader, it was €120. I about fell out of my chair with relief and paid that very day.

    1. The US healthcare system is legit traumatizing and 100% training ppl to be averse to medical care and intervention. It’s absolutely horrifying.

      I’m so glad your story of German billing had such a happy ending tho :).

      1. Agree on all counts! And thank you. 🙂

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