Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Does Spider-Man Have Mental Health Insurance?

"Identity Crisis" by Stan Lee and Marcos Martin in Amazing Spider-Man #600 (2009)

Noted psychiatrist, Dr. Gray Madder, shortly after initiating his session with the webslinger, wonders if Spider-Man has insurance. It's a silly question, as the doctor should be aware of New York's mental health parity legislation, Timothy's Law. The law, which was passed in December 2006, requires that employer-sponsored insurance in New York State include mental health benefits comparable to medical care benefits. This means that generally the law forces employers that provide health insurance to also provide mental health inpatient care of 30 days per year and outpatient care of 20 visits per year. What's more is that small employers (firms with fewer than 50 workers) receive a full subsidy from the state to offset the additional cost of insurance that adding the benefit would add.

Therefore, Dr. Madder should have figured either one of two things. Realizing that Spider-Man uses webslingers (which are not free) and has access to other expensive technology, the doctor should have deduced that he was either independently wealthy or had a steady source of income. If Spidey was independently wealthy such that he could afford to buy such gadgets without working a day job, then he would have likely been able to afford to the cost of the session on his own, which should have pacified any concerns on payment. If he had a steady source of income, he would have most likely been a beneficiary of Timothy's Law, meaning he had mental health insurance.

The only scenario that is uncertain is that Spider-Man is either self-employed or works for a firm that does provide health insurance at all. This could be understandable. After all, it is hard for an outsider to imagine Spider-Man sitting at a desk from 9-5. It is conceivable that he is an artist or something.

More likely, I think Dr. Madder was just unaware of Timothy's Law. In fact, according to a recent report issued by the New York State Insurance Department, a survey of 200 random small employers in NYS found that about 38% had never heard of the law and 18.5% were aware that it expanded mental health benefits, but also believed that it increased costs for the firm (that is, they were unaware of the subsidy).

Perhaps Dr. Madder should keep more in touch with health insurance policy in his state of practice. Or maybe this suggests that the insurance companies should better inform providers of recent changes in policy. Either way, it is safe to assume that Spider-Man has mental health benefits.


kmitcham said...

You fail to address the fact that Spiderman doesn't have health insurance; Peter Parker has health insurance. In theory, doctor-patient confidentiality would cover reveal the linkage between the two, but I doubt Spiderman's foes would respect it much if they discovered who Spidey's doctor was.

Of course, I'm also surprised the doctor wasn't willing to take on Spiderman as a pro bono patient, and that spidey got as far as actually talking to the doctor in his office before the question of payment (or lack thereof) was answered.

mishka said...

Also, Spiderman is way gay. He probably has gay insurance. Because that's what he is. Gay.

Got him.

Andrew TSKS said...

Actually, there's a wrinkle here that no one is considering--Peter Parker has generally, for most of Spider-Man's career, made his living as a freelance photographer. While we generally only see him working at the Daily Bugle (though in recent months, he's started working for Ben Urich's paper, The Front Line), he gets paid based on what photographs he can sell, not on any sort of salary basis. Therefore, Peter Parker is an independent contractor, which makes him self-employed, and not employed by the Daily Bugle.

This obviously wouldn't apply during the brief period in which he was working as a teacher.

ShadowBanker said...

kmitcham - You're right and obviously he would not want to dispense his secret identity. Think superheroes should have their own insurance plans that wouldn't force them to reveal their secret identities? I bet it would be a huge moneymaker for the industry. Imagine the premiums!

AndrewTSKS -- Good point. I actually do mention the scenario that he is either self employed or works for a firm that does not provide insurance. Freelance is certainly another to consider.

Might Be Jesus said...

Superhero insurance wouldn't work because it would be ripe picking for scam artists.
-The entire reason for this insurance would be to prevent revealing one's secret identity.
-The insurance company must have a way to identify its clients.
-Ruling out any methods of identification that could lead back to the secret idenitty (e.g. DNA test) the only things left are powers and costumes.

So, in order to make a claim, Spider-Man shows up in costume and sticks to walls... BUT anyone could do this! Chameleon has faked Spider-Man's powers on a number of occaisions. Morph, or most other shapeshifters, could do the same. Supervillain's could give up on ordinary crime and focus on faking super-powers to scam insurance companies. This would not only make them richer, but the increase of claims means higher premiums, and bankrupt or uninsured heroes, leaving the now wealthy villains in better positioned to pursue their normal super-crime.

ShadowBanker said...

Might Be Jesus - What about some sort of government insurance in conjunction with the Superhero Registration Act (prior to Dark Reign)? What if Stark was in charge of superhero insurance and kept it all confidential? Obviously there are risks (such as Dark Reign).

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