By Tim Larive: It truly amazes me that opponents of health care reform can, with any semblance of honesty, argue that the system we now have is even remotely adequate for anyone in this country.

As a self-employed small business owner, husband and father of two, I have watched with intense interest as President Barack Obama has worked to reform our current health care system.

Since I am self-employed, I, like millions of other small business owners, have been forced to purchase private health insurance for my family and myself. Over the past five years, we have spent at least $15,000 a year just for health insurance premiums for my family of four. As a participant, in the "free market" for-profit system, I have seen my rates increase 60 percent during the past five years. I have been denied services and forced to run the gauntlet of corporate bureaucracy, and I have seen the insurance I do have provide us less and less coverage and benefits.

It truly amazes me that opponents of health care reform can, with any semblance of honesty, argue that the system we now have is even remotely adequate for anyone in this country. Small business owners are being buried by the cost of insuring themselves and their employees. They are facing the painful decision of reducing or eliminating coverage or choosing plans with astronomically high deductibles. Even larger businesses must carefully consider hiring new employees because of the huge additional cost of providing new hires with benefits.

The current system, plainly and simply, is broken. America spends the most per capita on health care of any country on earth, yet we have some of the worst results for this cost and still have nearly 50 million people without any health insurance, not to mention millions more who are under-insured or folks like me who pay huge premiums for the "privilege" of having a halfway decent health plan. People are staying in jobs they hate just to keep their health insurance; they are waiting until they are very sick to seek medical attention because they have no insurance. Our emergency rooms are becoming dumping grounds for poor, uninsured citizens, and people are going without needed medicines because of their insanely high costs. We are the only developed country in the world that does not have a national health care plan.

Despite all of our problems, the defenders of the status quo are rolling out the propaganda machinery once again in their attempts to derail any change. Through their use of fear mongering and the specter of "socialism" they desperately want us to believe that the government is attempting to take over the whole medical-industrial complex and that seniors will be denied services and that we all will be waiting in some huge line in our little Mao jackets, waiting for a doctor to give us 30 seconds of their time. This is a lie — pure and simple. Don't buy it, don't believe it. Countries that have national health care generally like their systems, and their people know that if they get sick or injured they don't have even the remote chance of losing everything they have in order to pay their medical bills. It works and has worked relatively well in these countries (Britain, Canada, Japan, Germany, Spain, etc.) for years and years. They pay less and get more. That is a fact.

Health care should be seen and treated as an essential service, like the military, police, education, environmental protection, fire protection, our highway system and a host of other programs and services. We would never consider having our military, transportation or fire and police departments be run by for-profit corporations — why on earth would we want one of the most vital aspects of lives, our health, be left in the hands of corporations that are beholden only to their shareholders? I find it amazing that many of the people who are opposed to greater government involvement in health care are either recipients of Medicare or have no problem with this system of insurance that, by their own definition, is socialized medicine! (I guess it's OK to have socialized medicine, but only if you are a senior, right?)

Please help me and millions of other self-insured, small business owners stay in business. Health care reform is the key to a healthy country and a healthy economy. Please support this change that is so sorely needed. Don't buy the lies and hype of the status quo. Remember: They like things the way they are. Why wouldn't they? They're making obscene profits off the bent, toiling backs of us Americans!

Tim Larive is a self-employed real estate appraiser who has resided in Ashland with his wife and two children for the past five years.