Trump Expected to Expand Private Medicare Advantage Program

ORLANDO — President Trump is expected to unveil a new executive order on Thursday afternoon that expands the private-sector version of Medicare, framing the decision as the responsible alternative to the Medicare-for-All policies supported by some of his Democratic political opponents.

Seniors “like what they have, so the president is going to protect it,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said in a conference call with reporters ahead of Mr. Trump’s afternoon speech. “Today’s executive order makes very clear his commitment to protecting Medicare.”

The executive order, which Mr. Trump is expected to unveil while visiting the country’s largest retirement community, known as The Villages, in Florida, is designed to support Medicare Advantage, the private Medicare coverage for seniors that enrolls 22 million people, according to senior administration officials, and lower premiums for its beneficiaries. The plan is also designed to offer more affordable plan options, allow providers to spend more time with patients and reduce Medicare fraud.

The executive order, originally called “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction,” was renamed “Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors” ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech. But administration officials called the renaming a distinction without a difference.

Joe Grogan, the White House director of the Domestic Policy Council, said that the goal was to contrast what he said was the administration’s commitment to protecting seniors with “the vision for Medicare as a one-size-fits-all, single-payer system” supported by many Democratic candidates. He said the plan offered by Democrats would destroy health benefits for seniors who had paid into this program for their entire lives.

“Medicare for all is Medicare for none,” added Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Proposals like Medicare for All, as well as the public option, they are morally wrong because they would demote American seniors to second-class status.”

Mr. Trump’s appearance in a veteran-heavy, Republican-leaning region of Florida comes as his advisers are pushing him toward what they view as a winning campaign issue and away from a focus on the impeachment proceedings underway on Capitol Hill.

Thursday’s executive order is the latest in a series of moves Mr. Trump has made in recent months to counter Democratic health care proposals that seek to expand coverage to more Americans. In July, for instance, the administration passed an executive order to allow some drug imports from Canada. Administration officials on Thursday morning underscored that the price of prescription drugs fell in 2018 for the first time in decades.

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