By Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma Treasurer Scott Meacham believes there are more winners than losers in the new federal health care paradigm, created in historic legislation passed earlier this year. However, he is uncertain what effect higher federal taxes will have on the entrepreneurial activity of upper income Americans, and on others facing higher levies to finance the new law.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Meacham said he had avoided making comments or observations as the bill as it worked its way through Congress. He said, “I’m not into the Washington drama and theater. I am interested in the pragmatic impact of policy decisions and laws, including in this area.”
Meacham believes “the winners will include hospitals, nursing homes and mental health providers.” He continued, “In the past Medicaid only covered poor old people and poor children. It has not applied to working poor adults. This bill now includes that group in Medicaid. They have in essence been brought into the health care system.”
He said, “The biggest runaway and uncontrollable cost has been health insurance, and costs related to the growing number of uninsured Americans. I believe business owners and to some extent private insurers will also be winners.”
On the flip side, “Losers include small to medium-sized employers (those with 50 or more workers) with the new mandate to provide health insurance to employees. Doctors also say they will be losers, but in the long run they will come out ahead. I say that because it seems to me the Medicare provider benefit limits are among the aspects of the bill least likely to survive the amendments to the law I know will come” in the next few years.
Meacham added, “Other losers are going to be those making over $200,000 a year, who will have to pay higher taxes, without question. The new taxes on unearned income will also be a factor for many.”
CapitolBeatOK asked if entrepreneurship and creativity among upper income earners would be negatively impacted by the significant new taxes they will pay, reversing the underlying tax policy shifted that lowered the highest income tax rates during the Reagan presidency. This reporter also asked about the effect long-term federal debt will have on policy development.
Meacham replied, “We are entering a time when top rates, the actual effective rates, are going to go up. The federal government has taken on a lot of new spending responsibilities, spending increases that are certainly going to occur. Economic growth is going to pay for some of that, but can it pay for all of it? I am sure we will be soon in a time when new discipline in spending will be essential, or there will have to be tax increases. That is very challenging.”
Meacham volunteered some final thoughts in the interview, held Monday in his office at the state Capitol: “On a broader issue, I am concerned about the rhetoric and counter-rhetoric we see in politics and in policy. There is an over-reliance on rhetoric in politics, and that may be keeping us from finding solutions.”