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    Dr. Marcinko is originally from Loyola University MD, Temple University in Philadelphia and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in PA; as well as Oglethorpe University and Emory University in Georgia, the Atlanta Hospital & Medical Center; Kellogg-Keller Graduate School of Business and Management in Chicago, and the Aachen City University Hospital, Koln-Germany. He became one of the most innovative global thought leaders in medical business entrepreneurship today by leveraging and adding value with strategies to grow revenues and EBITDA while reducing non-essential expenditures and improving dated operational in-efficiencies.

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An Endless Supply of US Dollars

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM www.KahlerFinancial.com

Is the United States in danger of bankruptcy? Contrary to what you may read in the media or hear from many politicians, no, it isn’t. The US Treasury will never run out of dollars. Unlike doctors and medical professionals, it’s impossible.

Reasons Why?

The reason is relatively simple. The US government owns a printing press. As long as goods, services, or obligations are priced in US dollars, the supply of dollars to our government to buy those goods and services is unlimited. This is not true of individual physicians, corporations, cities, states, and countries that don’t issue their own currency.

For most people, this is a hard concept to grasp, with good reason. The capacity of our government to create an unconstrained supply of dollars is a relatively new phenomenon.

The Gold Standard

Until 1971, all US currency was theoretically redeemable in gold. This was known as the gold standard. In the early decades of the 20th century, you could actually go to a bank and change your dollars for gold. That ability was terminated in 1933, but the dollar’s value was still tied to gold. This basically meant the only way the US government could create new dollars was by obtaining more gold, the supply of which only increases by the new amount of gold mined.

Nixon

In 1971 we had a paradigm change in monetary policy that many still don’t understand. President Nixon decoupled the dollar from the gold standard [Nixon also wanted to flood the country with MDs, and drive down physician income, by opening up medical school admissions]. It became a fiat currency, which is used as a medium of exchange but has no intrinsic value. Suddenly, the US government was no longer constrained by solvency issues and could never run out of money. It could create as many dollars as it wished ie; inflation].

Constraints

This didn’t mean it had no constraints. The major constraint to an issuer of fiat currency is inflation. However, creating money does not guarantee inflation if the newly created money is not spent. Japan, for example, is still fighting deflation even though they’ve been pumping money into reserves like crazy for 20 years.

What should have caused a massive rethinking and reeducating of the financial sector went relatively unnoticed. Text books, professors, economists, and politicians largely continued to follow many pre-1971 monetary principles that became irrelevant overnight.

Unlike the federal government, US states, cities, and other government entities cannot print money. They have to get it the old-fashioned way—from taxes, fees, or borrowing. It’s entirely possible for these entities to go bankrupt, just like individuals and corporations, if their outflow exceeds their inflow.

Europe

Interestingly, the same is true for member countries of the European Union. When in 1999 they adopted the Euro and gave up their sovereign right to print their own money, they took on the same status as states. Therefore, a country like Greece, which is a user of currency as a member of the European Union, can involuntarily default on its obligations.

This is a significant difference between the United States and Greece. While Greece can (and most likely will) go bankrupt because it doesn’t have an unlimited supply of Euros, the US can’t go bankrupt because it does have an unlimited supply of dollars.

The major threat that sovereign countries face is not running out of money, but devaluing their currency through inflation. A devalued currency is one that loses its purchasing power and often results in a lower standard of living.

Assessment

Just because the US can’t involuntarily default on its obligations doesn’t mean we can keep on over spending and pretend we don’t have any money worries. As a nation, we still need to acknowledge and deal with our serious financial problems. So should our doctors, financial planners and financial advisors.

Conclusion

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What Hurts Your Credit Score?

Facts that Doctors – and All of Us – Should Know

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Learn about the biggest factors that can hurt your credit score, from declaring bankruptcy and foreclosure to missing credit card payments and blowing off your bills entirely.

Conclusion

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Healthcare, Medicine and AIG

Hospitals, Doctors and Insurance Companies Affected

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The federal government recently announced a $100 billion rescue of American International Group [AIG], the largest insurer in the nation. Those involved in the business of insurance should know that it was the financial services operations and other non-insurance operations of AIG, and not its insurance companies, that forced the federal government to bail them out. Medical professionals should be aware, as well.

How it Happened

According to experts, the reason for AIG’s problems is two-fold. It is partly based in its dealings with credit default swaps, complicated financial instruments that investors use to protect themselves from bond defaults—which also caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Insurers try to keep premiums low and profits high by investing. And while all insurers invest premiums in different forms of assets, AIG invested much of its enormous income in securities that were backed by sub-prime mortgages. As the mortgage-crisis came to a head, the value of those securities fell, creating financial problems for AIG. Insurers, like AIG, who attempted to profit from high risk investments found those investments to be so risky that they failed completely. When the investments failed, the insurer’s operating assets were reduced and it needed a major infusion of working capital. The federal loans, although enormous, are fully backed by saleable assets.

I Have AIG Insurance – Should I be Worried?

Generally no; because of the corporate structure of AIG. The holding company can be experiencing financial problems while the individual insurance company subsidiaries that agreed to insure you remain secure. They have more than adequate reserves to pay the claims anticipated. Each AIG branded insurer is a separate corporate entity that, by law, must maintain funds in secure reserves to pay claims presented.

And yet; First Professionals Insurance Company [FPIC] of Florida, recently told the SEC that it held securities with an amortized cost of $4.1 million in Lehman Brothers, $2.1M in American International Group, $2.5M in Morgan Stanley, $2.1M in Washington Mutual and $300,000 in Fannie Mae. 

Will AIG Claims be Paid?

Probably, yes. If the insurer has maintained adequate reserves, as required by state laws, there will be sufficient funds to pay all claims reasonably presented. If the individual insurer should fail, it will be taken over by the state where it is domiciled. If the insurer is faced with a catastrophe that it cannot cover and if your insurance is with an AIG company that is admitted to do business in your state, the state’s Insurance Guarantee Fund will pay your claim up to a limit that is usually no more than $500,000.  Of course, there is no absolute certainty in any situation relating to insurance, but the AIG companies are well-funded and very capable of handling all predictable claims.

On the one hand, if the insurer is put into receivership, the state regulator will use the insurer’s own assets to make payments before seeking funds from the insurance guarantee fund which is financed by assessments on all insurance companies that do business in the state. If, on the other hand, the AIG insurer is not admitted to do business in the state but does business through the surplus lines market, you are not protected by a guarantee fund and must be certain the insurer has the assets sufficient to cover any potential losses.

How Do I Determine That My Insurer Has Adequate Assets?

Contact your state department of insurance to determine if the insurer is admitted to do business and is protected by the Guarantee Fund. Also, check your policy; the insurer must tell you in writing if it is not admitted. Contact your state department of insurance to obtain financial documents filed by the insurer.

Assessment

The credit-crunch is on everywhere, and hospitals filing bankruptcy this quarter include: a two-hospital system in Honolulu; one in Pontiac, MI; Trinity Hospital in Erin, Tennessee; Century City Doctors Hospital in Beverly Hills, Lincoln Park Hospital in Chicago, and four hospital system Hospital Partners of America, in Charlotte [See www.HealthcareFinancials.com; November 2008 issue].

Assessment

Finally, conventional wisdom suggests a ratings reveiw of any policy provided the insurer by Bests. It should be at least “A” rated. Review financial ratings of the insurer issued by Standard & Poors. Of course, these have become suspect of late, too! So, search the Internet with a query including the name of the insurer and the words “financial problem.” Be sure to ask your insurance agent or broker.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments re appreciated.

Disclosure: Dr. David Edward Marcinko is the editor of Healthcare Organizations: [Financial Management Strategies] www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Speaker:If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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