I’ll admit I didn’t get it at first, but now I totally understand: Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney want to “strengthen” Medicare – it’s such an elementary concept. Silly me, when I first read the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report on the impact that the Ryan budget will have on Medicare, and then listened to what Romney and Ryan said on the stump about how they will “strengthen” Medicare, I got confused.
However, I’ve come up with a helpful metaphor to help me understand just how “strengthening” Medicare works. Allow me to whisk you away to bygone days in my past, playing varsity basketball at my high school, Morrison Christian Academy in Taiwan. Why?
Let me explain: Like Medicare, my high school basketball game needed some “strengthening”. How so? Well, I made varsity three years out of four, I had a quick first step and drove left (which threw defenders off), I could dunk and had a nice, reliable outside jumper. I could play three positions: point guard, shooting guard and small forward. (Wait a minute, did my game really need “strengthening”? Oh well, too far into the metaphor now to turn back…)
For the last 16 or so years since high school I have undergone some intense “strengthening” of my basketball game, I’m sure akin to the type of “strengthening” that Romney and Ryan envision for Medicare. I’ve pretty much completely stopped playing basketball on any level (a few pick-up games at my kids’ school with other, mostly overweight, dads aside). I have worked out inconsistently throughout the years, gained 30 pounds, and I have eaten tons (literally, tons) of fast food. You know – strengthening my game, making it better.
Like the Medicare that Romney and Ryan have in store, my basketball game is much “stronger” now. Whereas before I could dunk, now I struggle to touch the backboard. Similarly, where Medicare used to cover the lion’s share of services, the “stronger” Medicare will issue seniors a coupon to help defray a smaller and smaller percentage of the costs of a private insurance plan.
I used to sprint up and down the court the entire game with abandon, but nowadays my ankle and back brace, and occasional back spasms slow me down. Medicare currently puts in some hard work too, covering most of medical costs while seniors pay around 35%. In the future, “stronger” Medicare won’t work as hard, forcing seniors to pay 68% of their healthcare premiums and costs in 2030.
My basketball game will continue getting “stronger” as the years go by, until one day I’m pretty sure I’ll be confined to a wheelchair. By then I might not even be able to muster up the energy to toss a ball 10 feet up through the hoop. I sure hope the “stronger” Medicare will be waiting for me when that day comes.