The Common Good

The Health-Care Bubble and My 5-Month-Old

Back in 2005, my wife was wanting to buy a house. Renting was not helping us build equity. The market was soaring. "Get in or be shut out of ever owning a house" was the prevailing chatter. I thought it was not a good time, as there was a bubble in the housing market, and the signs were pointing to a hard fall.

Was I genius or prophet who foresaw the coming crash? I wish I could claim it, but alas, I have no secret powers. I listened to many economists saying that there was going to be a fall. Unfortunately, few saw how hard that fall was going to be. We could see the danger coming, but we acted like the good times would last forever, and we treated the voices of concern like depressing clowns at a kid's party. So -- one year since the free-fall off the greed cliff -- what have we learned? I am hoping we've learned much, but fearing we've learned too little as we approach another cliff.

If in 2005, we had prepared for what was clearly a problem, maybe we would be in a better place today. Yet we did nothing. Now we are paying the price. In the future, will we act if we see another market bubble that threatens us?

We are now staring at a health-care bubble which will burst sooner or later. It is a bubble whose bursting could damage our future as much as that infamous real estate bubble did; yet a sizable part of the population sees nothing wrong. Are we to keep going down the road with a broken bridge at the end? Health care has increased in cost exponentially, and is not sustainable -- much like the housing market. I have good insurance, but every year cost goes up and coverage goes down. The hot air pushes up the pressure. How long before the pop?

Recently, I have had close contact with the health-care bubble. My son has been diagnosed with a congenital disease. He is having complications, and we are uncertain about his future. I have written about the pain and joy around my son. What I have discovered is that the health-care bubble is the last thing I need to worry about when my 5-month-old is struggling. Yet both my wife and I have to think about it. Costs go up and up and up. We worry despite being frugal and playing by the rules. (We bought our house with a great interest rate and at a cheaper price than anything we could have bought in 2005). What does the future hold for my son?

As a nation, we are now in the middle analyzing what went wrong with the housing bubble and how we can avoid the problem of unsustainable market bubbles. We are looking at where our economic models went wrong. This is good work and should inform us as we reform health care. The questions will be whether we will be honest with ourselves and avoid another bursting bubble. As George Santayana famously said,

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

portrait-ernesto-tinajeroErnesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at beingandfaith.blogspot.com.

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners' Health-Care Resources Web page.

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