Life’s a Bear

A tale of humor and health insurance.

December 2022

Reading time min

Cover of Bipolar Bear book on a light blue background

Book illustration: Kathleen Founds

Copays, deductibles, claim forms, denialsnavigating medical insurance isn’t easy. For people with certain mental health conditions, it can compound a feeling of hopelessness. Writer Kathleen Founds, ’04, harnessed her sense of powerlessness after a run-in with her health plan to create a graphic novel that doubles as a call for reform. Bipolar Bear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: A Fable for Grownups (Graphic Mundi), which Founds wrote and illustrated over 13 years, follows Theodore, a bear with bipolar disorder, on the perilous journey that ensues after he plunges into the Labyrinth of Health Insurance Claims. Along the way, he falls prey to man-eating flowers, customer service snakes, and capitalistic fat cats. “When it comes to bureaucracy, comics can go where other forms of literature fear to tread,” says Founds. “Humor can accompany us through bleak spaces, and enable us to emerge feeling more human and less alone.” Especially when we’ve walked alongside a teddy bear.

Jennifer Worrell is the copy chief for Stanford.

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