We have a tendency to judge the health-care system primarily by its capacity to deliver extremely sophisticated and advanced care for traumatic injuries and catastrophic illnesses. The sort of stuff you see on "House," say. But we think much less about its role as a public health infrastructure — its ability to deliver flu shots, and make sure that all of the country's inhabitants have a trusted medical professional they can see if they're sick.
On those measures, our system performs terribly. It's simply too fractured to do anything different. Almost 50 million Americans have no insurance. Many more are underinsured. Many don't have a particular doctor or even medical center where they feel comfortable receiving care. Many are uncertain about what is and isn't covered in their health plan. Many have recently been uninsured, and so have no regular contact with the medical system and haven't established an obvious way to begin having some.
The backstop to all this chaos is that you can go to an emergency room when things get really bad. That's fine for a car accident. It's not good for preventing the spread of the flu. You don't go to the emergency room when you're a bit sick. You go when you've become really ill. Which not only increases the likelihood that you wait until you get really sick, but with the flu, that you infect many others along the way. That in turn gives the flu more opportunities to mutate into something much worse. And let's not even talk about our insistence on keeping the illegal immigrants who prepare our food and clean our homes from seeing the doctor, as if H1N1 can't be transmitted by people who don't have a green card.
Got intellectual dishonesty?