Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bill Mantlo and health insurance

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I'm a bit of a comics buff. But today I don't want to talk about a particular comic but about a creator and the horrific situation he faced, not just twenty years ago but since then.

Bill Mantlo was one of those writers who frequently forgot the limitations of the medium and the titles he was given. Assigned to write Marvel Team-Up, a disposable series of one-off stories featuring Spider-Man and any old guest star he instead turned out some epic masterpieces. Assigned to Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, a second headline title for the character that just served to met a public demand he instead began crafting a distinctive direction and identity for the book, at times making it the best Spider-Man title on the market. Then there were licensed titles like The Micronauts and Rom: Spaceknight, both based on shortlived toys. Instead of churning out simplistic tales to just advertise the product Mantlo instead crafted incredible complex sagas that sold so well both books outlasted their toys by many years and set standards for other toy based books. And there was so much more - one estimate is that he wrote over five hundred issues and for nearly every single Marvel title. He didn't just craft fantasies but also sought to use his writing to explore very real and serious issues in a way few others did.

But on June 17 1992 Bill Mantlo was seriously injured in a hit and run accident. And unlike the comics there was no miracle cure, no happy ending. The story of his life is told in LifeHealthPro: Tragic Tale and it's not pleasant. It's a tale of where the focus of health insurance really is, and the damage that has upon not only on a patient's chances of recovery, but the wider damage it wreaks upon families. One of the most horrible points is when the insurance company brought in their own doctor to get a different report from the hospital's own staff. But the worst is that this is not an exceptional case or an example of the system not functioning the way it was planned. It was the system working as normal.

It's a terrifying insight into a world where profit margins are the primary determinant rather than basic humanitarian need. I hope we never go that way.


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