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Readers Boo Medical Debt and Viral Threats in Profitable Halloween Haikus


You did it again, readers! We received more than three dozen Halloween haiku submissions in KHN’s fourth annual Halloween haiku contest. Our expert panel of judges took the ghastly challenge of choosing the best head-on … or off. Here’s the winner, which was recited by Julie Rovner on last week’s “What the Health?” podcast, plus a sampling of finalists illustrated by Oona Tempest. The judges’ favorites drew inspiration from real-life viral outbreaks and the burden of haunting medical bills. Keep an eye on KHN’s social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) for more of our favorites. Enjoy!

1st Place

A pen and ink cartoon depicting a witch lying on the floor, staring in horror at her cell phone. A black cat stands on her stomach and is pawing at the window above them. Outside, you can see ghostly depictions of the following viruses: covid-19, ebola, monkeypox, and influenza.
(Oona Tempest / KHN)

Covid, Ebola,
Monkeypox, seasonal flu —
Who needs Halloween?

Paul Hughes-Cromwick

Inspiration: 24/7 ghosts, goblins, and pathogens



2nd Place

A pen and ink cartoon depicting the mythical headless horseman wearing a business suit and scattering surprise medical bills.
(Oona Tempest / KHN)

Surprise billing curbs,
Like the famed headless horseman,
Remain incomplete.

Michael L. Millenson

Inspiration: “How to Avoid Surprise Bills — And the Pitfalls in the New Law


3rd Place

A cartoon drawn in pen and ink. Two skeletons, one of which is a human in a costume, face each other and scratch their heads, appearing perplexed at the near-mirror image of themselves. A tiny spider hangs between them, holding a face mask.

Ghastly, grotesque, sick!
You mask up to trick-or-treat,
But not for covid?

Micki Jackson

Inspiration: The ongoing mask-or-not masquerade


While Halloween may be coming to an end, KHN reporting continues year-round. Send us your haikus at any time for possible inclusion in our Morning Briefing: https://khn.org/contact-haiku/

(Oona Tempest / KHN)

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