Dave Barry provides an accurate description of our health care system here. Two excerpts:
The first big breakthrough in medical knowledge was made by the ancient Egyptians, who discovered that the human body contained organs such as the pancreas, and if a person became sick, and you took out one or more of these organs, the person would get better. Or not. But either way you could charge the person, or his heirs, money. This was the beginning of surgery....
The greatest Greek physician of all was Hippocrates, who is often called "the father of modern medicine'' because he invented the concept that remains the foundation of all medical care as we know it today: the receptionist. Prior to this invention, when patients came to see the doctor, the doctor had to actually see them, which, as you can imagine, took up a lot of his valuable time because they were always nattering on and on about being sick. But all of a sudden, thanks to Hippocrates, incoming patients could be intercepted by a receptionist, who would (1) tell them to take a seat, and then (2) avoid making eye contact with them for the rest of the afternoon. This breakthrough meant that a single doctor could schedule as many as 375 appointments per hour, which is the system we still use today.
With thanks to Bob Wachter for the pick-up!