At the climax of a comic book or blockbuster movie, there is often a fight wherein a massive amount of private property gets destroyed. With side effects of totaled cars, demolished buildings, and pulverized roadways, it’s clear that no superhero would ever be able to afford the premiums on liability coverage. Still, it seems like paying for their own health insurance should be part of every superhero’s civic duty.
Superheroes seem invincible when rounding up incompetent hooligans on the streets, but a slugfest with an arch nemesis makes their vulnerability all too apparent. The whole suspense of a dramatic arc depends on the fact that the protagonist might get hurt. A Superman without the balancing threat of kryptonite is just a bully who uses his disproportionate strength for however he chooses to define “good.”
Toward the end of a fight scene, the hero may struggle with an injured arm, lacerations, or even puncture wounds, but the movies and comic books rarely seem to address the recovery period. What kinds of specialists need to be called in for the mending of super flesh and bones? Wayne Enterprises could foot the bill for Bruce’s “polo injuries,” but how do the less affluent heroes afford treatment? If they have social security numbers, a lucky few may qualify for Medicaid.
The audience assumes that the emergency rooms of Gotham and other alternate universes abide by a familiar code of ethics. Like our hospitals, they wouldn’t turn away unstable patients in need of urgent care, but the triumphant hero may not qualify as an urgent priority. Looking at the walk-in patient in a unitard, a triage nurse would see the scrapes and possible fractures and direct the man to a chair in the waiting room. She might flag the patient for a psych eval, but emergency rooms do not provide physical therapists or other referrals for long-term recovery.
Compared to the havoc and mayhem of their evil opposites, most cities can handle the expense of healing their good guys. What’s more disturbing is that the caped crusaders have a responsibility to serve as examples of responsible behavior. If other citizens across these fictional cities stopped getting their own health insurance coverage, then it could be a significant burden for the state. These are communities where new masked and costumed criminals crop up every season, where mad scientists routinely blast the population with mind control devices, lasers, and gas. Even one of these events could mean that survivors and bystanders need years of therapy. These are communities that need quality health insurance as much as they need a hermit vigilante. If only to set the example for others, every hero should have coverage.
Ultimately, every true defender of the people has an obligation to think about the negative consequences of every major choice. The Batmobile may not be an electric hybrid, but the nocturnal crime-fighter would be seen as less heroic if his transportation ran only on puppy tears collected from the Gotham pound. Wayne Manor should not be decorated in ivory and endangered animal furs from hunting expeditions. Responsible planning for health insurance is just one of many ethical questions that should be taken into consideration when determining who gets to be called a good guy.