The cover story for our latest issue of National Underwriter Life & Health is called “Tragic Tale,” and it is an in-depth look at the life and near-death of Bill Mantlo, a fellow who had a brilliant career writing comics for Marvel Comics in the 1970s and 1980s, and then switched to become a public defender, of all things. His career was cut short when he was hit by a car in 1992 while rollerblading. Bill suffered severe head injuries that left him permanently disabled, and also put him into a long and hard journey through our healthcare system.
Bill’s insurer in this was CIGNA, which unfortunately could not provide much information to the story.The upshot is that eventually, CIGNA made the call that Bill’s healthcare coverage had run its course, and Bill was no longer able to receive any further rehabilitation. Once that call was made, Bill basically fell out of getting any kind of care that could improve his condition, and he landed at an unimpressive nursing home on the far side of Queens, New York, that has been described by his family as little more than “three hots and a cot.” It is where Bill was sent to live until he dies. Nothing more. The question to be asked was whether CIGNA made the right call or not. It is easy to speculate. But that is all anybody can do on this case: speculate.
Having said that, CIGNA doesn’t look very good in this story. And I knew it when I began compiling it. I wrote this story not to go after any health insurer or even to go after anything at all. I knew of Mantlo from his writing, learned he’d been in a horrible accident, was permanently disabled, and that his fans had held some fundraisers to raise money for his care. It was that last part that interested me. Fundraisers? For Bill Mantlo? Where was his health insurance, I asked myself. A speculative call to Bill’s brother, Mike, and I suddenly realized there was an interesting story here, and down the rabbit hole I went.