Values Judgements

So I know that we’re just loaning American International Group, Inc. $85 Billion (that’s with a B) for two years while they sort out the mess they’re in. And I know it comes from the federal governments reserve fund, not the main fund that pays for all of our programs. I get that.

And to be sure, officials are not sanguine about their decision to rescue the insurance giant. They came to it reluctantly after careful deliberation. That said, I still can’t help but notice that the $85 billion that the feds are putting up to keep the gigantic insurer AIG from roiling the markets is about the same amount (actually, it’s a little more) than what health and children’s advocates have been asking for the past couple of years to help fund children’s health insurance (SCHIP) — and provide universal children’s coverage — that’s the remaining 10 million uninsured children — for five (5) years.

It’s interesting to look at the panicked language associated with the decision to rescue the insurer. From the New York Times:

If A.I.G. had collapsed — and been unable to pay all of its insurance
claims — institutional investors around the world would have been instantly
forced to reappraise the value of those securities, and that in turn would have
reduced their own capital and the value of their own debt. Small investors,
including anyone who owned money market funds with A.I.G. securities, could have been hurt, too. And some insurance policy holders were worried, even though they have some protections.

“It would have been a chain reaction,” said Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of
economics at
Princeton University. “The spillover effects could have been incredible.” (Uwe Reinhardt, by the way, is also very interesting and entertaining when speaking of health policy and economics…)

Ok. We’re worried there’s going to be lots of pain everywhere. Lots of people with investments aren’t going to have as much anymore. Lots of people, who have been paying for insurance, on the case that their factory goes down in flames would be SOL if their factory went down in flames after AIG declared bankruptcy. It’s very sad when people lose their money. I don’t like losing money, ESPECIALLY when I’ve played by the rules. It took regulators a couple days, but the came to the table and said they said, “We have to do this. It’s too important not to do.”
The public is annoyed, but gets it. We don’t want the economy to get any worse. We want to be number 1 again.
By contrast, the issue of whether to insure children — with roughly the same amount of public resources (Again, i recognize it’s a totally different process and comes from a totally different fund) remains a subject of intense debate. Ten million children, the majority of whom are in working families who play by the rules, need health coverage. But there is no rush to their side. I would argue that the “spillover effects” of uninsurance are just as tragic as a fallen market.
Children can’t see a dentist to get cavities filled. They get abscesses and die. Children can’t get to an eye doctor. They can’t see the chalkboard. They get behind and frustrated in school. They can’t live up to their intellectual potential. Children get asthma. They can’t see a doctor. They can’t get an inhaler. They miss school. They get behind. Schools lose money.
I’m not saying that money used to rescue AIG should be redirected to children’s healthcare. I’m just miffed at the level of frenzy surrounding financiers, and I’m not sure why that frenzy and drive to take action is not as strong when it comes to those born to families that can’t afford health insurance.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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