Democrats Pan Trump Medicare ‘Plan’ Saying It Does Nothing for Recipients

October 4, 2019 by Dan McCue
President Donald Trump gives a speech on Medicare at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in The Villages on Thursday. [Cindy Sharp/GateHouse Florida]

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump traveled to The Villages, a retirement community of 125,000 residents north of Orlando, to tout a plan to “save” Medicare, but House Democrats quickly panned the president, his plan and his rhetoric.

The central theme Trump attempted to drive home in Florida was that Democrats want to “totally obliterate Medicare.”

“They want to raid Medicare to fund a thing called socialism,” he said.

This, despite the fact that not one has proposed taking coverage away from recipients, and that steep cuts to Medicare payments to hospitals and other healthcare providers have been part of every budget proposal the president has made since arriving in the White House.

“President Trump’s announcement today is nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to disguise his Administration’s dismal record on health care and protecting seniors,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday afternoon.

“This President and his Republican allies have been working to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and weaken Medicare since day one,” Hoyer continued. “This executive order is an admission that the President and Republicans are worried that American voters can see through their health care ploys.

“House Democrats will continue to offer real solutions to protect the Affordable Care Act, strengthen Medicare, and lower health care and prescription drug prices for all Americans,” Hoyer said.

While in Florida, Trump also signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to pursue changes to Medicare.

The order is essentially a to-do list primarily focused on Medicare Advantage, the private insurance option picked by about one-third of seniors.

Medicare Advantage plans offer savings on premiums and an annual limit on out-of-pocket costs. Offered by major insurers, the plans also cover prescription drugs in most cases.

But plan participants must also accept limits on their choice of hospitals and doctors as well as prior insurer approval for certain procedures.

If they change their minds and decide to return to traditional Medicare, they’re not always guaranteed so-called Medigap coverage, which is also private.

Shortly after Trump spoke, Representative Richard Neal, D-Mass., Chairman of the House 

Ways and Means Committee, said, “as expected, this executive order does little to help the majority of Medicare beneficiaries.”

“Republicans do not want to protect Medicare – President Trump’s latest budget proposal slashes the program by $575 billion, and congressional members of the GOP regularly call for cuts to the benefit,” Neal said. “Unsurprisingly, these same officials want to dismantle our entire healthcare system without proposing an alternative plan.

“Meanwhile, Democrats remain committed to strengthening Medicare and have a transformational proposal to bring down prescription drug costs for millions of Americans. Unlike President Trump and his Republican party, we want to put patients first,” he added.

The White House did not immediately respond to the Democrats’ criticism.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the president’s order directs his department to examine whether its current policies and practices put traditional Medicare ahead of the private Medicare Advantage option.

“President Trump’s Executive Order delivers on the clear promise he’s made to Americans about their healthcare: protect what works in our system and fix what’s broken,” Azar said in a statement. “America’s seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied with the care they receive through traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and the President is continuing to take action to strengthen and improve these programs.”

The secretary went on to say the steps Trump has directed be taken include “expanding options and providing savings for seniors on Medicare Advantage; eliminating unnecessary burdens on providers; focusing Medicare payments on time spent with patients rather than on procedures performed; accelerating access to the latest medical technologies; cutting waste, fraud, and abuse; and expanding freedom and control for seniors on Medicare. 

“All of these steps together will help create a healthcare system that puts patients at the center,” Azar said. “These kinds of improvements, rather than a total government takeover of the healthcare system, are the path to our ultimate goal: better health for all Americans. That’s the President’s promise, and that’s what he has been delivering for American patients.”

Medicare is the government’s flagship health care program. It covers an estimated 60 million seniors and disabled people.

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