Administration moves ahead to bolster Medicare Advantage plans and authorize lower-cost drug imports from Canada, as it takes on Medicare for All.
President Trump is preparing to sign an executive order next week on Medicare and moving ahead with allowing some drug imports from Canada, part of the administration’s effort to engineer a response to Democratic proposals that candidates say would expand health coverage to all Americans.
The executive order would aim to strengthen Medicare for 44 million Americans and portray the president as defending it against Democrats who want to expand it nationwide under their Medicare for All strategy, a White House official said Wednesday.
The administration on Wednesday also said it would allow the imports of some drugs from Canada, backing an idea most Democratic candidates have also said they support. More executive orders, including one on drug prices, are possible, according to a person familiar with the plans.
Mr. Trump is taking a two-pronged approach to his 2020 campaign message on health care, attacking Medicare for All as socialism and rolling out a blitz of health-care initiatives intended to position him as the person who can drive down costs and protect health care.
The president is expected to contrast the Democrats’ plans with his in a speech set for Aug. 6. “He’s going to indict and impugn the idea of Medicare for All,” a White House official said of the speech. Senior White House aides and agency officials are holding meetings several times a week on health care plans, the official said.
Democratic challengers say Mr. Trump has endangered coverage by backing cuts to Medicare and a lawsuit that could dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
“We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren said during the candidates’ debate Tuesday. “That’s what the Republicans are trying to do.”
This week, the administration proposed a rule that would compel hospitals to disclose discounted rates with insurers. The president signed an executive order to overhaul kidney-disease care, and the White House relaxed restrictions on pretax health savings accounts so the money can be used on treatment to prevent disease.
Mr. Trump is expected to sign the Medicare executive order next week at The Villages, a Florida retirement community with 120,000 residents that is majority Republican.
Mr. Trump may call for agency action to bolster Medicare Advantage plans, which private insurers offer under contract with Medicare and cover about 22 million people, according to two people familiar with the executive order. The president is likely to focus on curbing waste and abuse in Medicare that can add to the program’s cost. In addition, the order may aim to let Medicare Advantage plans offer a wider array of supplemental benefits. The administration has already taken steps in this direction by letting home health-care providers become partners in the Medicare Advantage contracts.
Mr. Trump also is expected to push for changes that could lower the price of patient visits to hospital outpatient clinics, two of the people said. Those visits can cost more than visits to clinics operated by doctors. “This is part of the president’s broader vision to put American patients first,” one person familiar with the executive order said.
A White House spokesman declined to confirm the details or comment on the executive order.
House Republicans and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have criticized the plans from Democrats, saying they would end Medicare Advantage and imperil the Medicare program, which covers 44 million Americans.
“Our administration wants to strengthen the program, protect the program, make sure it’s sustainable over the long term,” Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Wednesday at a press event. “We need to work toward that instead of forcing so many more people onto the program.”