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Superstore - Health Fund - Review: "You Solved Healthcare!"

Let's be honest, if we were betting on which American sitcom could best solve healthcare, I'd put all of my money on Superstore. But, as this episode showed, I'd lose all of my money. Of course, this is only a hypothetical bet, so that really isn't such a bad thing. Without ever being idealistic, cynical, or preachy, "Health Fund" provided us with a view on healthcare just as nuanced as the ones you'll get on CNN, except it won't make you want to rip all of your hair out.

The cold open begins with Mateo (Nico Santos) complaining of an ear infection. Worried about their friend, Mateo's coworkers pitch in with their ideas. Amy (America Ferrera) suggests Vaporub, because to her, Vaporub is magic (side note: Amy would get along great with my parents). Marcus (Jon Barinholtz) suggests root beer, because to him root beer is the new Vaporub. Kelly (Kelly Stables) suggests going to a doctor. This provides a segue into a discussion over how much the employees' health care plan sucks.

I personally really enjoyed the cold open. All of the home remedy discussion was great, and it played on every character's quirks really well. It also provided a really great segue into the meat of the episode, in which every plot was in some way about healthcare.

After the intro, Amy sets up a donation bucket for Mateo's healthcare funds. She asks Jonah (Ben Feldman) whether to label it "The Project" or "The Liwanag League" to fool people into thinking that they are donating to a charity. Jonah says that "The Mateo Project" sounds better and that it really sucks that they have to make up a charity every time one of their friends needs medical help. After some discussion, Jonah decides to create a health fund for the employees of Cloud Nine, one where everyone will drop in money each month, one that can be emptied out whenever someone needs. It's like a "Break Glass in case of Emergency/Ear Infection/I Really Need To See a Doctor" kind of deal. Though Amy thinks that the idea is stupid, Jonah goes ahead with creating a health fund, and the rest of the employees seem enthused about it too. Because of the popularity of the fund, Amy decides that she wants credit too, because she was with Jonah when he created the idea, and thus it's kinda her idea too. She tells Jonah, and he announces that it was her idea too... but he also tells her, in confidence:
“The health fund was total disaster, and we’re in a lot of trouble."
Turns out, their coworkers have so many health problems and medical needs that they need 37,000 dollars to appropriately cover everyone. It's actually pretty hilarious how many health problems everyone has. Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) alone has asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and a comatose boyfriend. And that's just the stuff I remember.

Amy and Jonah tell everyone who has donated to the health fund that they can't pay for everything. Understandably, people freak out. Sandra gets angrier than I've ever seen her, and it was hilarious, especially as she snapped so quickly back from rage queen in front of her coworkers to super sweet sales associate in front of a customer. Ah, retail.

In order to try to solve everything, Amy and Jonah gather everyone in the back room to discuss payment options. Their first plan, splitting the participants into two groups, Group A that pays 20 dollars a month and Group B that pays 200 dollars a month, doesn't go over very well, though the scene where it is introduced is pretty funny. Their second plan is a million times more complicated, with tiers and payment plans and fancy names. It's like health insurance, but more fun and less functional. That plan doesn't go over either, leading to this genius suggestion from Isaac (Steve Agee):
“We just gotta simplify. Cover everything, exclude no one, and make it affordable.”
In an ideal world, that could happen. But as Superstore has shown us time and time again, we don't live an ideal world. We live in a world where people don't seek medical attention when they need it because of how expensive it can be. We live an world where money is king and people are subjects. We live in a world where there is no perfect solution. As Amy puts it:
“Some of us are gonna use the fund more than others, but no one wants to put in more money than they’re going to take out."
That's just the way it is. That's just the way we are. And maybe, until we fix how we see healthcare (is it a privilege or a right? how much should be pay for it), we can't find a solution that fits everyone.

The way Superstore approaches the health fund really puts healthcare into perspective. We've all grown to know and like these characters, so we all want them to get healthcare. It's easier to visualize healthcare like on a small scale like this than on a large scale with a million of nameless faces, because if we only think of nameless faces, then that's going to be bad. It's also easier to see how easy it is for healthcare plans to fail. Two people can't create a comprehensive healthcare plan for twenty people within a day, so if we do the math, it's kind of strange to expect a couple hundred people in Congress to create a perfect healthcare plan for millions in a super quick time. That's not to say that it's impossible, but we should all probably be very wary of every single healthcare plan the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress puts out from now on.

If Superstore wasn't as smart of a show, this health fund plot would have been preachy, with everything working out in the end and everyone agreeing to a perfect and affordable healthcare plan. The moral of the story would have been repeated at least three times, just so everyone watching would get it. But Superstore is a smart show, and there are only two morals I can think of for this story:
1. Don't jump on tables, or else you will need to get your wounds superglued.
2. Don't get your wounds superglued.
The episode's A-Plot perfectly balanced comedy with social relevance. To do that, it took up a lot of screen time that the two other stories didn't get.

The episode's B-Plot revolved around Glenn (Mark McKinney). After hearing Dina (Lauren Ash) talk about her mole during the cold opening, Glenn wonders if one of his own moles could be cancerous. Here's the catch: the mole is on his penis. In his efforts to figure out his mole situation he fails to ahold of his dermatologist, googles "Mole Penis", is part of a very uncomfortable exchange with Tate (Josh Lawson), and shows Dina his penis through a curtain. This plot could have easily been a total miss, but Mark McKinney played it with a great amount of earnest that made it bearable.

Meanwhile, Mateo tries to find ways to solve his ear problem. First, he goes to pharmacist Tate for some antibiotics. Because he doesn't have a prescription, Tate sells Mateo some questionable pills under the table. Second, he goes to Marcus to try a root bear remedy, where the fizzing means it's working! In the end, Mateo gets money for a doctor from the donations to "The Mateo Project"... which he ends up using for a faux Gucci messenger bag. The irony of that was funny, but also... priorities, man.

Other notes:

  • A non-comprehensive list of the components of the Amy and Jonah Healthcare Plan, also known as my favorite part of the episode: Targaryen, Wall of Flyer, Platinum Select, Gryffindor, Diamond Plus, Fluttershy, Platinum Concierge
  • I missed Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) in this episode. It would have been really nice to see her take on healthcare, since she is a single teen mom. But the episode was still pretty good without her.
  • Garrett's (Colton Dunn) expression when he rolled in on Glenn showing Dina his penis though. To me, Garrett is pretty much the most unflappable person in the store, but he looked like a broken man when he saw that and simply rolled out and away. The sheer exasperation and brokenness displayed in his eyes was truly beautiful.

What did you think of this week's episode of Superstore? Did you miss Cheyenne? How much would you have contributed to the employee health fund? How do you think we can solve America's healthcare crisis? Share your answers in the comments below!