Recently, I was in Luxembourg (a tiny country nestled between France, Belgium and Germany) for a conference, and I needed emergency surgery.
I had an infected cyst - not a life-threatening emergency. Nevertheless, I was seen by a doctor within 30 minutes of arriving in the emergency room and was operated on immediately.
There was no bureaucrat between me and the doctor. No one had to approve my care. They simply did what needed to be done.
Of course, they did not recognize my American insurance, so I agreed to pay for the service and try to get reimbursed later.
I spent an hour on the operating table and returned in the next several days for two follow-up visits. For this, I was charged a grand total of $300.
My local emergency room estimated that the same operation would cost $5,700 to $16,300, and that was just for the hospital, not including the surgeon and the anesthesiologist.
Government-run health care works.
The vast majority of those who say otherwise, I am willing to bet, have no personal experience with socialized medicine.
They base their opposition on fears drummed up by politicians or medical interest groups with not-so-hidden agendas who trot out stories of long waits and denied care.
But there are people who suffer long waits and denied care under our system too, in addition to nearly 50 million people with no access to doctors at all except in emergency rooms, but we don't hear those stories.
Ask anyone about their experience with the American health care system, and you almost certainly will get an earful about insurance companies.
It seems that every insurance company employs armies of people whose primary job is to avoid paying for the care you need.
If you are part of a network, it can be a nightmare to find a doctor when you are in the wrong place.
When my daughter was off at college and needed to see a doctor, we looked at a Web site conveniently provided by our insurance company, listing doctors in her area who were willing to treat people in our network.
But the small print said, this may have changed, and in fact, many of the doctors listed were no longer even in town.
So how did we find a doctor who really would see her? It took hours of telephone time by my wife to find someone, and then my daughter had to get herself across town to see him. Under a single payer plan, she could have seen anyone she wanted.
Anyone who has looked at the systems objectively has concluded that single-payer care leads to better care at lower cost.
Our system is expensive, and, globally speaking, not so great. Sure, it's great for Rush Limbaugh, but he's rich and can afford the best. Average people are better off when the government runs the system.
And yet, whenever the issue of health care comes up, the insurance companies somehow manage to convince Americans that we need them; that without insurance companies, we would somehow get worse care. But as I see it, insurance companies are the problem, not the solution.
Americans are conditioned to think that we are the best at everything we do, but it is simply not true.
We could learn a lot from other countries, if our politicians and lobbyists will let us.
After all, if they can do emergency surgery for $300 in Europe, why can't we?
Politically, we may not be ready to move to a single-payer system, but any "reform" that does not include a public option is no reform at all.
David Reingold is professor of chemistry at Juniata College in Huntingdon.